Social networking tools and features have made their way into so many of our software applications that they have changed the way we do business. “The market right now is in the exploding phase,” says David Carr, editor of The BrainYard, referring to the vast number of social networking tools that permeate cyberspace. As you’ll find in SSQ’s recent guide, Social media: A guide to enhancing ALM with collaborative tools, the uses of social media cover the span of the entire software development lifecycle, as early as idea gathering through customer service and everything in between. In this article, enterprise leaders and project managers will learn more about how organizations are using social media features and tools to aid in collaboration between business and IT and ultimately, end users.
The growing trend towards business and IT collaboration
Collaboration between business and IT, with or without the aid of social media, is a trend that continues as we see more organizations using an Agile approach that emphasizes collaboration, not just in software development methodologies, but in the way the entire business operates.
Alex Adamopoulos, CEO of emergn, an international PPM and Agile consultancy, sees 2012 as a year in which there will be increased the alignment between business and IT. He says:
I believe the opportunity in 2012 is for CIOs and IT Execs to become part of the organization from the starting point of idea management and not the recipient downstream. In such a technology-driven economy, it is still surprising how many IT organizations are not becoming more integrated with the business but are assuming that the boundaries are the way it should be.
Lisa Dreher, VP of marketing at Logicalis, says that the biggest surprise from the recent Logicalis report aimed at determining what was on the minds of CIOs, was the continuing trend of IT leaders in becoming more involved in business.
“We're finding that the IT leaders are a lot more broadly focused across the business instead of just focusing on IT. That trend is continuing to grow. It's clear that IT is going beyond the IT realm. They're very much more focused on the business as a whole.”
Social media tools and features to facilitate collaboration
We have two complementary trends – social media and collaboration. Though certainly collaboration can take place without social media and there are a variety of uses for social media other than collaboration, there’s no denying that the use of social media is a great tool for promoting and facilitating collaboration. Knowing this, many tool vendors are working hard to ensure their products incorporate social media functions and features that organizations can use to become more collaborative.
Mendix, an organization which provides a development and project management platform that emphasizes business and IT collaboration, uses their own “social” application, Sprintr, both for internal collaboration as well as a way to capture user stories and requirements directly from end users.
I spoke with Eric Peters, marketing communications manager at Mendix about their products. He said:
Mendix started as a development platform from model-driven development, focusing on increasing communication between business and IT. There are a lot of components to the Mendix business modeler that enable business and IT to communicate better such as visual models. Since then we’ve developed the app store which is a place for storing those models along with templates and Beans. From there we launched Sprintr about a year ago. Sprintr is a social collaboration space for Agile project management. It has two components to it; it’s a social space for the entire company to collaborate and work on projects together and the other component is this very lightweight project management suite that focuses on collaboration between Agile teams and stakeholders.
Collaborating with both internal and external stakeholders
These social-business hybrid platforms are becoming increasingly prevalent in the enterprise. Examples include Yammer, Jive, IBM Connections and Microsoft SharePoint. These kinds of tools allow you to follow topics, join groups, share files and links, categorize with filters and tags, share ideas, take polls, share photos and share status, for example. Though social media may not have started with business in mind, organizations are taking advantage of the features internally to foster both improved business management as well as improved social relationships between team members.
Of course, security and privacy can be a concern when dealing with social media, and organizations need to determine what should and shouldn’t be shared beyond their firewall. However, as we’re seeing in the case of Sprintr, some tools have features which will allow improved communication and collaboration not only internally, but with external stakeholders.
One of the really coolest parts about Sprintr is the feedback mechanism that's really easy to implement into the application. Anyone using that application can click feedback and submit feedback and [the tool] will provide all the metadata, organized into the feedback tab within Sprintr.
Steffie Tasheva, software development coordinator at First Nonprofit Insurance Company, likes the Sprintr feedback mechanism because of the ease of use for customer communication and says that having all the communication stored together is easier than having to dig through emails. According to Tasheva, "Every time someone has a problem or comment, all the members can see it. Everybody's up-to-date. That's helpful for documentation purposes and provides an audit trail."
With collaboration between business, IT, and ultimately end users, being so important, organizations are looking at social media tools to help provide the features to facilitate this collaboration. Enterprise leaders will want to take advantage of these features to foster both business and social relationships within their organizations and with their customers.
Does your organization use social media for internal collaboration or external communication? What tools do you use and what are the pros and cons? Let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.