Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Choosing the right social tool - Reflecting on the #SocialNow conference

Many companies are looking into social tools for their internal organization. Lots of others just select what related companies have chosen. Hoping this is the right choice.

As with selecting content management systems, many struggle to select a social platform. There are so many tools out there and they all say they can help you support internal networks. How to choose the right one? Is there a right one? Does the success of a tool elsewhere mean it will also be successful in the company you work for?

The Social Now conference in Porto (June 26-27), organized by Knowman, addressed these questions. And it did so in a unique way. Basically the idea was to have social tool vendors present based on a concrete company case that wanted to move forward in knowledge sharing, idea management and collaborative project work. The vendors were asked to share their approach in 20 minutes and then an expert panel helped the company ask the right questions to the vendors. Many brave vendors presented: Alfresco, Confluence, Microsoft Sharepoint, Oracle, Newsgator, Podio, Teepin, Zyncro, Xwiki, SocialIBIS, Oobian, and Spreadd

Also, several expert talks were given:
  • Oscar Berg about how social concepts and tools can improve knowledge work
  • Ana Neves (also conference organizer) gave two talks: one about selecting social tools and the other about adoption techniques
  • Hugo Magalhães helped the audience decide whether to go for Saas or not 
  • Joaquín Peña shared the insights from the Spanish Enterprise 2.0 conference
  • Lee Bryant closed the converence with a talk about the social organization. 
I think the conference was truly unique and successfully helped the audience gain more perspective in the social tool landscape. There was lots of discussion during the conference in which participants shared their situations and tools they are of have tried. Furthermore the vendors were open about what they are good and less good at and also answered the hard questions in one-on-one's.

What struck me during several presentations was the fact that many vendors address the process-side of work and how their social tools relate and connect processes to networks and vice versa. I think this underlines the fact that the social tool market is maturing. And this approach clearly helped the audience with their adoption questions, because most organizations spend lots of improving processes. Social tools are more than fun, they help get daily work done and improve the overall business. 

Another interesting insight is that Oracle (with Webcenter) and Citrix (with Podio) are taking on Google, Microsoft and IBM. Both are extending their current, more traditional offerings with social tools. 

A final insight: innovation happens at the edges. John Hagel and Seely Brown stress this in The Power of Pull. The Social Now conference proved this to be true. The smaller vendors all had much more innovative approaches to the social space. Take Podio with which users can build their own widgets to get the information or application they need to do their work. Or Spreadd that connects all kinds of tools to a public stream trying to automate as much narration as possible. Or Oobian that semantically analyzes content and connections to provide insights over huge amounts of data. And SocialIBIS that converts your stream for text to speech so you can listen to the stream while on the move. Or Zyncro that translates stream updates in the language you understand. Just to list some of the features of these platforms!

I was curious if this new way to set up a conference would work. I think it did. Most conference are focused on business or IT. This conference took a more integral approach. The conference was well-structured, an impressive list of vendors presented, there was lots of discussion going on during, before and after the program. I really enjoyed it.

What do you think of the concept of this conference? How could this conference be even better?
And are you in the process of selecting a social tool? What’s your approach? 

All the tweets and other posts about the conference can be found here.

Disclaimer: I was master of ceremony of the conference, but did not organize the it.

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