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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.

Integration with the application at large is also important when it comes to ensuring that wikis and other organic data structures that are a part of enterprise 2.0 allow you to truly see how your company operates and how things get done. When unstructured data like conversations and wikis are embedded directly in the working environment, your company can become a learning organization that absorbs and retains the wisdom and collective decisions of executives, managers and employees in a comprehensible and actionable format.

It is also important to ensure that an ERP product with embedded enterprise 2.0 features addresses both types of social media communication - synchronous communication and asynchronous communication. Synchronous communication includes things that happen in real time like instant messaging, chat, IP telephony and the like. Asynchronous communication includes tools that allow users to "time lag," including wikis, blogs and message boards. Each is useful under different circumstances. Oftentimes, someone will first use synchronous communication to an individual or two to get an answer immediately and then, if questions still exist or clarity is lacking, they will broadcast their question using asynchronous communication to solicit feedback or thoughts from a group.

Particularly valuable synchronous communication tools allow a user to instantly communicate with any individual in the system including internally and external contacts like a customer or supplier. This is driven by a customizable contact card, and benefits flow to the organization as each conversation or contact is documented. This organizational memory can, for instance, improve customer service as a discussion about a customer order is clearly visible to others that might interact with that customer, allowing for exponentially greater responsiveness and a more satisfied customer.

Asynchronous communication features in ERP are ideal for those situations where you have a question but are not expecting a real-time answer. They scale particularly well to a group, and a number of people can contribute thoughts on a topic or collaborate on documentation over an indefinite period of time. Asynchronous communication tools of this type are very similar to Facebook, where you can post an update about a new smartphone that you have purchased along with questions about how to configure it. Your tech-savvy friends, wanting to show their knowledge as well as be of service, readily chime in with specific and detailed directions.

Another killer asynchronous communication feature is to structure help text as a wiki. This allows users to change the help text and augment it with documentation of the business process flow they are automating. This lets you become a learning organization and, in a more immediate and practical sense, gives you the organizational memory to avoid making the same mistakes twice. As stated earlier, using the wiki to record your processes can also support lean process change documentation requirements.


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