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Enterprise 2.0 and social media coming to ERP

By David Andersson | Dec. 20, 2010
While some business software companies work to integrate their offerings directly with online tools like Twitter or Facebook, the real business benefits will come from enterprise resources planning (ERP) and other enterprise software.

Increased Focus, Knowledge Retention

Building social media functionality into an ERP platform will also help ensure that employees using Web 2.0 tools like instant messaging or wikis are not leaving their working context and are likely to remain more productive. Harder to quantify but also important is the degree to which the workforce enjoys the tool they are using. Intuitive communication tools like enterprise 2.0 can cause workers to more closely follow updates about what is going on within the company - even when they are not at the office.

This dynamic can cut the other way as well. Intuitive enterprise 2.0 tools can make it more likely that workers will share information with others, increasing the degree of intellectual capital entering an ERP solution.

Within much of the developed world, the number of people of working age is actually decreasing. This trend is hitting some industries - including utilities, process manufacturing and other complex engineering-intensive fields - harder than others. Enterprise 2.0 ERP may be one of the best tools to capture and retain the knowledge of senior, expert, professionals and technicians - intellectual capital that would otherwise have been lost.

Wikis for Lean

One consistent principle of lean initiatives is documentation of change over time. As processes and practices within the organization change, it is necessary to record how things are done, why they are done that way and the resulting outcome.

By structuring the software documentation as a wiki, it becomes possible to document not only how the ERP software is being used, but the processes it is used to execute. The wiki format automates the lean mandate to document process change. As processes are altered, the wiki is updated, leaving a full history of when and how the process was changed and the results that ensued.

Wikis can also reduce the amount of value added work spent looking for information or trying to determine the proper process to follow in a particular situation. They can have an immediate and understandable impact on the amount of training required to use an ERP solution and to learn the processes within a company, speeding the time to value following a new hire.

Selecting ERP with Enterprise 2.0

Once you have determined that enterprise 2.0 holds real value for your business, there are a few factors to take into consideration.

Without question, the most important consideration is integration. Social media functionality that stands apart from ERP or lacks very tight integration with the platform as a whole will not deliver true enterprise 2.0 benefits. This integration needs to work both ways. You need to be able to search conversations and other social media data quickly so you can determine who said what to who and when they said it. You also need to be able to link any object in the application freely with social media conversations. This allows discussions regarding customer orders, for instance, to be tied in with the relevant functionality in the application, or a question about a particular customer invoice can be linked directly to the correct document.


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