Social Has No Future (Yet)

This provocative title simply means: In general, social software systems record what is happening now and in the past, but for the most part completely lack any representation of the future. Enterprise Social Software, or Social Business Software, will succeed only if it has some representation of goals or other future activities.

Twitter is great for the current zeitgeist.  Tap into what others are thinking at this moment.  If you have been offline for a while, when plugging back in you can scan over the recent posts on the subjects you track.  Facebook and Linked-in are pretty much the same in this respect.  There is a lot of value in this: awareness of what others are up to, pointers to immediately relevant information, and networking in general.

Enterprise Social Software (ESS) or Social Business Software (SBS) is about using social techniques in the workplace.  Work is called work because you need to produce something.  For that you need collaboration, coordination, planning (courtesy of

  • collaboration – the act of working with another or others on a joint project
  • coordination – harmonious combination or interaction, as of functions or parts.
  • planning – to arrange a method or scheme beforehand for (any work, enterprise, or proceeding)

No surprise, to accomplish the above, you need to be able to represent and track goals.  You need to be able to talk about what you want to do, how this is broken down into finer detailed goals, and to track progress against those goals.  You want to be able to ask others to do things, which when accepted form goals for those other people.  This is the essence of planning, which is an important part of any work.

Of course I could “tweet” what my goals are, but that does not amount to an ability to represent goals and track completion.  The measure should be a native ability to express something that represent a goal to be accomplished, and it should record whether or not it is accomplished yet.

Ratings of Current Systems

For each of the systems mentioned below, I provide an assessment of how well that system represents the future goals or plans.  Using the symbol of a Starfleet Academy badge[1], one badge means no representation of future goals, and five means full complete representation of goals in a social setting.  Caveat: I have no actual experience with any of these system.  These ratings are pulled simply from marketing literature on the assumption that if the product had these capabilities it would at least be mentioned there, yet I have no way to assure that claimed capabilities are actually in the product.

  • Facebook
    Why doesn’t Facebook have goals?  Well that is obvious: it is a place to hang out with friends, not a place to get work done.
  • Twitter
    Equally obvious: this is a place to communicate, and not a place to focus on work.  Certainly, twitter can be useful and can carry work related tweets, but it has never been a place to do the work.
  • Linked-In – 
    Much like Facebook, it is a place to network with current colleagues, and previous coworkers, and other acquaintances.  While the subject of the content is often about work, it is not really a place to do work.
  • blueKiwi
    Claim to be enterprise and business oriented.  The page of key features lists: Groups, Personalized Dashboard, Microblogging, Repost, Post to Twitter, Polls and Surveys, Ideas, Wiki-Docs, Rich Synchronized Profiles, Notification and Group Activity, Advanced Search, Bookmarklet, Administration, Console, Mobile Access.  No mention of goals or planning.
  • Central Desktop
    They list their 5 key features as: Workspaces (TEAMS, CLIENTS & PARTNERS) People (CONNECT & COMMUNICATE),  Projects (COLLABORATE & MANAGE), Documents (SEARCH & ORGANIZE), Workflow (AUTOMATE & CONTROL).   To collaborate and manage projects you can assign tasks to be done, and track them to completion.  The workflow aspect implies that tasks can be automatically assigned.
  • Cisco Quad – 
    The published features include: Profiles (Let people know about you and your interests) Communities (Collaborate dynamically with others who share your interests.  Manage team projects and share best practices.) MyView (Subscribe to content sources.) Participate (Easily communicate and share your knowledge and expertise with others.) The focus of this product appears to be strong synchronous sharing through many channels.  There was a mention of managing projects, so I bumped it to two badges.
  • Success Factors Cube Tree – 
    Pitched as an enterprise collaboration suite, claims the following four pillars: Dynamic Profiles, Groups, Personal Activity Feed, and the Company Tab.   This is clearly highly communications oriented.  The company tab is simply a way to find and link up with others with particular skills or interests.  Further digging shows that they have the ability to assign tasks to others, with due dates, and that earns them a second badge.
  • EMC Centerstage – 
    It would be no surprise if this offering was heavily content oriented and according to the five main features it is: User-centered designAdvanced search and discoveryCentralized content securityEasy, self-administered managementSpace and content templates.  The 10-page product overview did not mention any ability to represent goals or to track accomplishments.
  • Huddle – 
    Huddle describes themselves as a way to “Connect, share and work better together”.  The key here is the orientation toward work.  For instance, you can “Schedule events in a workspace calendar visible to everyone.”  They specifically compare themselves to project management, but all the comparison points are about access to content.  Immediately track deadlines and milestones for your projects. See late- upcoming and completed tasks. That is the capability I am looking for in order to plan and execute against the plan.
  • Igloo Software – 
    Their feature description includes: “An integrated suite of content management, collaboration and knowledge sharing capabilities, within one secure social platform.”   Not surprisingly this is a social platform focusing on content, access, and sharing, but no evidence of a focus on goals and work tracking.
  • IBM Lotus Connections – 
    Describe themselves as “social networking software that consists of five features: Activities, Blogs, Communities, Dogear, and Profiles.”   Activities looks promising, but it says it is for “collecting, organizing, sharing, and reusing work that is related to a project goal.”  Note that the word ‘work’ is used here not as description of a verb, but instead as content that might be the output of work.  The question I have is whether they directly represent goals and track accomplishments as first order objects.  While given their long history in the workflow domain, I am tempted to assume they have some capabilities here.  The marketing literature talks about how it helps people work more effective, I can’t find any evidence that they actually have a representation of a task or goal, so I have to give this only a single badge.
  • Jive Engage – 
    They claim to “delivers all three core capabilities – collaboration software, community software, and social media monitoring tools – on one platform.  You get all the social networking features users love, including blogs, tags, videos, social bookmarks, collaborative documents, polls, rich profiles, and status updates. And you get all the enterprise controls you need, including privacy, security, permissioning, profile control and more.”  I don’t see any mention of goals or task tracking, and I am rather surprised because Jive is considered one of the big three E2.0 suites out there.
  • Microsoft Sharepoint – 
    They say: “Using SharePoint 2010, your people can set up Web sites to share information with others, manage documents from start to finish, and publish reports to help everyone make better decisions.”   The give the following six main capabilities: Sites, Composites, Insights, Communities, Content, Search.   Before I say anything else, I should admit the obvious, which is that Sharepoint is really an application development platform, and as such you can create almost any application there.  Many users are using applications to track goals on sharepoint.  But I am rating here the native capabilities of the platform, which are all clearly centered around content and sharing, and no native capabilities for representing a goal or tracking accomplishments.
  • Atlassian – 
    A broad suite of tools.  One can argue that a bug tracking system supports the goal of resolving the bug, each bug report representing a fairly specific goal.  I believe Atlassian has some project tracking capabilities as well. Atlassian  has quite mature capabilities here, but I stopped short of 5 badges because the offering is a collection of separate tools, and the planning aspects are not integrated with the social aspects to the degree that I believe is possible.
  • Salesforce Chatter – 
    No mention in the feature of an ability to enter or track goals.  In my brief review of the product I did not see any support for goals.
  • Mindtouch – 
    The MindTouch Technical Communications Suite (TCS) is “a breakthrough solution for creating, managing and sharing your company’s strategic content, including process and product documentation.”  Clearly content focussed, the three key capabilities are Intelligent Documentation Framework, Community Scoring, and Adaptive Search.  They have an add-on for content moderation that includes workflows, I don’t see any capability to represent goals or tasks as native objects.
  • NewsGator Social Sites – 
    They say that “Social Site for Sharepoint 2010 can help you create a global Enterprise 2.0 environment.”   It is an extension for sharepoint which add powerful personal profiles, but do they add goal and task tracking capabilities? No evidence that they do.
  • Novell Pulse – 
    Here are the headings on their lengthy features page: “Boost engagement with social messaging; Co-edit documents online and in real time; Share and synchronize files; Communicate in real time with direct, group and social messages; Stay informed with real-time awareness and topic chat; Collaborate across organizations; Ensure enterprise-level security; Manage documentsCreate ad-hoc groups; Accomplish more with real-time gadgets; Connect with dynamic user and group profiles; E-mail to post, reply or add a document; Deployment is quick and easy; Novell Vibe interoperates with existing platforms and systems.”  No mention of goal tracking or task management.
  • Open Text Vignette Social Media Solution – 
    They say that it is “a complete, enterprise level social media solution that can reach far across your online presence to help you create compelling Web sites and powerful social microsites.”  They don’t present themselves as Social Business Software, so it is not that surprising that there is no direct representation of generalized goal and task tracking for jobs outside of content creation and management.
  • Oracle Web Center Suite – 
    They say: “Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g is the industry’s most comprehensive enterprise portal platform designed for business users and IT, and unified with business applications, Enterprise 2.0 services, and social communities.” Is it really E2.0?   Like sharepoint, it is a development platform which would allow such a thing to be built on it, but what native capabilities are there?  Buried deep within the the self running demo, I did see that group spaces have a direct representation of arbitrary tasks, including assignments and due dates, a nice task list, and the ability to schedule events in the future.  This earns it three badges.
  • PBWorks – 
    Claim their top 7 features: “Shared Online Workspaces; Easily Add Users; Collaborative Workspace Editing; Document Management; Complete History and Audit Trail; Manage Project Deadlines; Network Dashboard”  Of particular interest is that Manage Project deadlines which was further explained as “Set up Tasks and Milestones for managing projects. As your project evolves, you can update your Tasks and see how things are progressing.”  Each workspace has a list of milestone and then tasks.  Tasks can be associated with various artifacts.
  • Ramius – 
    Claim that “your employees are able to intuitively find each other, connect and converse online, share information, post a quick status update and work collaboratively in a group.”  Features claimed: Discover and find experts quickly; Permission-based information sharing; Microblogs and communication tools; Personalized Activity Stream.  Remember that activity stream is simply historic posts such as Twitter posts.  No evidence of representation of goals or tracking thereof.
  • SAP StreamWork – 
    Claims “the first and only solution that brings together people, information, and business methods to drive fast, meaningful results.”   Focus is a little different, not just content, but a focus on decision making.  I am not seeing a representation of specific goals, except one can say that to “make a decision” is in essence a kind of goal stated to be accomplished.  Stating this goal helps to coordinate the work around it.  It is not as explicit as I would expect in a general goal tracking system, but the fact that you do state something to be accomplished make it somewhat “future oriented”.
  • shareFLOCK
    Was not able to get enough information about this product to make an evaluation.
  • SocialText – 
    They claim “everyone knows what’s going on. People and teams are synchronized, engaged and informed.”  Their key features are Social Networking; Microblogging; Groups, Social Spreadsheets, Dashboard, Wiki Workspaces, Internal Blogs, Desktop App, Mobile, and Integration.  Lots of content.  Their examples include a clever page that lists tasks for tracking status, but as far as I can see this is not a feature of the system, but rather simply a document where users have listed their tasks.
  • Telligent – 
    Claims that “Within organizations, Telligent Enterprise social collaboration software connects people and information regardless of location.”    I saw a demo of the product, and I must say I was very impressed with the look and feel, as well as capabilities.  however, based on the marketing materials, I can not find a reference to explicit representation of goals or tracking.
  • TWiki – 
    Mainly a multi-group wiki, but it does have a “bug tracking” capability, which can be used for simple task tracking.


Is it fair to judge Enterprise 2.0 systems in this way?  I anticipate many will say that most of the systems were never designed to track tasks, and thus it is not really fair to rate them this way.  I agree that many were not designed to do this.  This analysis however is simply on the one dimensional assessment of whether the product can represent goals or other future actions.  A low rating means only that it lacks this capability, but may of course still be strong in many other categories.  Some of the product do show strong capability in this area, and that satisfies me that it is a reasonable inclusion in the feature set of Enterprise 2.0 products.  My feeling is that this area is still not mature.  Eventually all such enterprise productivity products will have some representation of goals, and allow users to track their accomplishments.

[1] FootNote

How do you find a symbol of the future?  I first tried to make an icon of a time machine, and ended up with all sorts of clock-like symbols.  But a clock does not represent the future necessarily, it often represent the tracking of time, and history just as much or more than the future.  I tried to grab something iconic from the cartoon “The Jetsons” because of the quaint futuristic stereotypes there, but nothing really fit. Being an unapologetic Star Trek fan, it soon became clear that the badge indicating status or rank, given out by the star fleet academy, would a be a suitable symbol of accomplishment as well as being something iconic about the future.  I feel there is a good pun around “The Enterprise” and “Enterprise 2.0” but I could not formulate anything good enough for the title.

21 thoughts on “Social Has No Future (Yet)

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Social Has No Future (Yet) | On Collaborative Planning --

  2. Hi Keith,
    Interesting comparison. But must we not be honest and giv als ECMS and BPMS only one star trac point as you gave for Sharepoint. If you install our SAPERION there is onyl a simple template to play a bit. So it s not more than twitter and may be less then facebook. You can by further templates for processing the invoice approval or to manage contracts or HR files.
    And yes, applications will be used if they give us a value in reaching our goals. I can imagine using a chat or a microblog in the case I needing more information for a decision. And at the end of the discussion with my collegues or externial experts I archive the thread to my case I am working on for having an audit trail.
    Kind Regards, Martin

  3. Nice write up.

    Regarding Telligent’s product, you likely did not see our Telligent Analytics product which is a completely separate product that measures how the software is meeting the objective of the community, e.g. support, digital marketing, etc.

    Let me know if you want a demo.


    • I am certainly open to the possibility that I missed things in the roughly 10 minutes I had to rate each product only looking at the marketing literature. I took a look at the Telligent Analytics brochure. It says:

      With Telligent Analytics you can discover specific activity within your online community or internal collaboration site and report on that activity through out-of-the-box and custom reports. Telligent Analytics helps to prove the value of investing in communities by allowing your organization to: Analyze user contributions, roles, and engagement; Learn from customer conversations; Monitor “buzz” both inside and outside your communities; Evaluate support vital signs, including time-to-solution rates; Quickly gauge changes in your community; Understand and improve the effectiveness of your communities.

      I don’t see the connection to stating goals. All of these tools allow one to achieve goals, just as I can use my bike to achieve a goal of going to the store. But the bike does not have a feature to allow goals to stated and tracked. I see in Telligent Analytics you can evaluate performance indicators as an aggregate statistic, but this is quite different from stating and tracking individual goals.

      But if you do have this capability, then the message here is that it needs to be more prominent in your marketing literature.

    • I was looking for a pretty straight-forward capability: can they represent goals and then track whether completed. When you talk aout “impact on performance” I guess you mean to measure how much more they get done today than they used to. Many of the tools have analytic capabilities, and if they track tasks/goals, it would seem reasonable to calculate task completion rates, etc. however I did not dig for details in that direction. If anyone else does look at that, let me know!

    • Good question. I didn’t rate BPM systems in general, because they hardly can call themselves BPM if they don’t have an explicit representation of a task. I don’t know if that is really fair, because a task is not necessarily a goal. Many BPM systems represent tasks as something entirely trivial, such as a web service call, which should not be considered a goal in any real sense.

      Like many BPM vendors, IBM/Lombardi is pushing in the direction of social, and Blueworks Live is a significant offering. They would probably rate 5 badges on this scale, and I would assume that most BPM systems moving in this direction would as well. We should be careful, however, to exclude those vendors who are only offering collaborative editing as their “social” dimension. Collaborative editing has little to do with representation and tracking of goals.

      Representation of goals is a fundamental element of an ACM system, so it would have to have 5 badges in order to be called an ACM system.

      Now you can see … my interest was to see how close ESS products are coming to ACM.

  4. Hi Keith

    An addition to your list would be HumanEdj, the reference implementation of a Human Interaction Management System, available free for individual use.

    HumanEdj is Web software to define templates for collaborative, cross-boundary human work then create adaptive, manageable Plans to do the work itself.

    To use HumanEdj, first add Stages to a template:

    1. In each Stage, people play Roles to provide deliverables;
    2. Only members of a Stage have access to its deliverables;
    3. Messages sent in a Stage go to all Stage members.

    Then make a Plan from the template, which will be shared with your colleagues.

    As the Plan owner, you can manage the work:

    1. Setting the status of each Stage;
    2. Adding, removing and changing each Stage member’s deliverables;
    3. Adding, removing and changing Stages themselves.

    HumanEdj has many advanced features including but not limited to:

    • Re-use of Plans as templates
    • Forecasting delivery dates where deliverables are dependent on each other, and adjusting dependencies and deadline to avoid slippage
    • Plans within Plans, and viewing the progress of sub-Plans
    • Using email to participate in Plans
    • Web service integration (typically via ACM- or BPMS-based orchestration)
    • Usage of business rules

    As we agreed on the ACM panel, a HIMS is the top layer of a new IT stack, in which the Intranet provides access to the enterprise backbone (including ACM and BPM systems) via HIMS Plans.

    All the best

    • Hi Keith,
      Completely agree. I would categorize HumanEdj as essentially an ACM system using a broad stroke of the brush, and not meaning to detract from any of the unique aspects of your approach. I didn’t review or include in this list any of the ACM or Case Management systems. I do know that HumanEdj has a very powerful and flexible representation of goals, tasks, and tracking of such. It is very much the prototype of what I would like to see in all systems.

  5. Keith, really good analysis. I absolutely agree and it makes me wonder how to deal with the market craze of ‘Social’ and how it is being used by for example the BPM crowd. And where does that leave a system like Papyrus that allows the use of ‘Social’ functionality as a matter of choice in its ACM capability, much like the BPMN functionality that you use or don’t. Much of it is a part of our CRM capability such as partners and clients, while the content stuff is ECM. Should we now not mention the silos at all? Is ‘Social’ the new term for consolidation of ECM, BPM, CRM and more?

  6. Keith — A very good post and an important subject. I particularly like your use of collaboration, coordination and planning as three facets of work (and the Star Trek badges). I’d suggest you take a look at Traction TeamPage Release 5.1 – announced at E2.0 Santa Clara last month, focused on your key points on collaborative planning and action tracking. (Disclosure – I’m President and co-founder of Traction Software).

    Release 5.1 includes planning, calendar views and action tracking in the context of the Traction’s TeamPage Enterprise Social Software platform. One click can add a task tag to any page, comment, status post or paragraph, with automatic rollup of actions by person, date, milestone or project. Projects can be used to collect a set of tasks and milestones to plan and organize activities by date or common goal.

    This simple model is focused on the lightweight coordination of individual and team actions that drive every business activity – from the simplest to the most complex.

    TeamPage Release 5.1 productizes and extends tagging and navigation conventions used by Traction Software and its customers, making planning, coordination and action tracking an integral part of the TeamPage collaboration, search and networking model and user interface. The short video is probably the best introduction.

    The Oct 2010 Traction User Group Newport page includes slides and videos of talks from customers including Alcoa on their use TeamPage for planning, coordination and collaboration, and a lively general discussion of Observable Work with keynotes by Jim McGee and Jon Udell.

    Greg Lloyd
    President and co-founder
    Traction Software Inc

    Traction TeamPage 5.1 Introduces Integrated Action Tracking for Improved Team Performance (with link to video)

    Traction User Group | TUG 2010 Newport 12-15 Oct – Keynotes and talks on Observable Work

  7. I was going to ask you about BlueWorks Live also, Keith, but it appears Mr. Brambilla beat me to the punch. Glad to see the figurative 5 shield rating though. Maybe a Blueworks Live eval could be a future post topic? Just sayin 😉 –Krista

  8. Thanks for including us in the summary Keith. In the summer of 2010 we added Group Spaces to our platform. This gives teams the ability to create sub communities within our platform – public or private. The next step for Group Spaces is to add tasks and milestones creating social project management functionality. This will be integrated to MS Project and MS Outlook.

  9. Pingback: Would you like Social BPM for Christmas? « IT Directions

  10. Hi Keith, many thanks for this and I particularly enjoyed your opening paragraph. For me understanding today and making useful predictions is key.

    On that note, you might want to check out a 2 minute demo of the Visual Team Builder which makes it possible to predict and model relationships.

    This then gives people some foresight and ability to ask ‘what-if’ questions around relationships and group dynamics.

  11. Pingback: Prediction is important, if not vital Four Groups

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