You might not recognize me here in the ReadWriteEnterprise channel and for good reason: I loudly and often proclaim that I don't do enterprise. In my mind, enterprise software is a confusing and scary land full of unfamiliar terminology and labrynthine user interfaces. Thankfully, the enterprise world is fully aware that folks like myself exist and, even more, may have to one day spend time - on the clock, mind you - learning how to use this software.
The answer? Bring aspects of consumer products like Facebook and Twitter to the enterprise solutions of the office.
Bring the Home to the Office
Most all of us - in the enterprise world or not - update our status, share photos, chat and even Tweet. Maria Ogneva, head of community at Yammer, the enterprise social network used by 100,000 organizations, says that a disconnect between consumer and enterprise software only causes frustrated and inefficient users.
"Employees are also consumers, and when they get to work they expect their software tools to act the way their consumer tools do at home," said Ogneva. "Because social sites and apps have become such a big part of our lives, the wider the disconnect between 'work tools' and 'personal tools,' the more frustrated we become."
Who wants frustrated employees (or wants to be one)? Nobody. The obvious solution, then, is for enterprise software to leverage familiar features.
"While at work, we are even more crunched for time, and business apps need to help their users do their jobs with the least amount of friction and setup time. A modern business app needs to be easy to use [...] and activate the right resources (knowledge and people) to help users get their jobs done," said Ogneva.
She points to Yammer's use of status updates, a Twitter-esque follower/followee model, streams, hashtags and @mentions as ready examples for more friction-less, easy-to-adopt features for users brought over from the consumer side of things.
Consumer Innovation Leads the Way
Marcus Nelson, director of social media at Salesforce, says that changes in technology, such as the iPad and the move to the cloud, are also behind the consumerization of enterprise. He points to Chatter as Salesforce's shining example of consumer technology showing up in the workplace.
"Where Salesforce was relegated to the sales and service department, Chatter allows us to get into every department," said Nelson, noting that 80,000 of Salesforce's 92,300 customers uses Chatter. "Like Facebook, like Twitter, this information is coming to you. You see enterprise software going with things like feeds and profiles. The technological ability has improved so much in consumer apps that it makes sense to adopt that [in enterprise]."
Ogneva also points to the functionality of feeds, as popularized by sites like Facebook or Tiwtter, as advantageous for enterprise.
"Social design engages users by serving them personally and temporally relevant information, the right relationships and the right tools at the right time -- whether it's synchronous or asynchronous," said Ogneva.
For those of you in the enterprise software business, a page or two out of these books could certainly help onboard the clueless, chronically office-free, social media addicts like myself when the time comes.