Two Approaches to a Shared Communications Goal
Social networking and unified communications are close cousins. As technology evolves, they are trending ever more toward each other. It is a nice opportunity for vendors to plant a flag in an enterprise with more quickly deployed social networking tools.
There is little meaningful demarcation between unified communications and business-based social media. The two have been trending towards each other as they evolve. Both, after all, have to do with helping employees communicate more effectively across a multi-application platform. Any gap between the two is more in the mind of those in charge of deploying them than the end users.
Last week, InformationWeek ran a long piece describing how SAS is using Socialcast to mount internal social networking initiatives. It is a very interesting case study. This paragraph is near the beginning of the story:
"SAS had started down the path of creating social applications based on Microsoft SharePoint "when the project manager stumbled across Socialcast," Lee said. "We realized it might be a better fit for us, given the timeframe in which we wanted to deliver on our requirements. One of the things that was important to me was that employees be able to reach success with communication through the system pretty quickly. I didn't want it to be something that would take us eight months to a year to get out, and by the time you get it out, it's old."
Karen Lee is SAS' senior director of corporate communications. The point is that end users and the communications executives whose task it is to make them exchange information most effectively are caring less and less about labels and more about results. Indeed, Lee's desire for quick payback suggests that social networks can be offered as the leading edge of a more substantial unified communications platform.
Truly, the two are different sides of the same coin, and people in both businesses — as well as end-user IT departments — know it. The converging nature of unified communications and social media are illustrated in this bullet point from a PCWorld piece on videoconferencing. Pay special attention to the last sentence, which suggests the good news is that the challenge is integration and not end-user buy-in:
One window shows all your applications. Companies are using unified communications (UC) platforms like Microsoft Lync and Avaya Flare as videoconferencing catchalls. These platforms consolidate all the windows workers have on their computer screens at any time, including videoconferences. They also integrate social media, so employees can video chat with anyone from their social networks. The trade-off, experts say, is that users must abandon preferred chat clients and adapt to using UC for everything.
Vendors do understand. Last month, for instance, Actiance — which defines itself as “enabling the safe and compliant use of unified communications, collaboration and Web 2.0” — announced that prepaid debit card provider NetSpend is using its Socialite product to tightly control Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.