This post has been written by Ed Schlesinger, the founder of studentforce.com LLC, a student centric solution available to universities’ as an enterprise solution
It’s fitting that “Social Apps”, having sparked a communications revolution shifting the playing field for information gathering and distribution; and, upending commerce, politics, dictatorships, news reporting, and many other areas of our lives – were launched in earnest on a university campus. I highlight the irony because this post intends to describe how “Apps and/or Platforms that are Social” (not Social Apps) can benefit an enterprise; specifically, a campus made up of students, researchers, faculty, and university administrators.
A striking difference between early social apps, and versions introduced recently for the enterprise is the target user. Initial social medium served mostly disconnected individuals who may have shared a loose yet common social, geographical and/or subject interest thread; a current or past academic affiliation, a neighborhood, or similar life and/or career experiences. These individuals enjoyed the novelty enabled by ever more powerful laptops, smartphones and tablets facilitated by ever increasing bandwidth at relatively low cost, available to instantly share, catch up with one another, or just chat; whatever, wherever; or whenever desired.
While social apps matured, features were added to keep members coming back. Photo sharing, games, personal productivity tools were common utilities delivered with standard social applications. Eventually the social application service providers began opening their platforms so Independent Service Providers (ISV’s) could create and distribute their own services on top of the social app platform.
As the market expanded further and popularity grew social apps became tailored to serve more specific individual consumer centric use cases, such as: professional networking (LinkedIn); document storage/sharing (Box, DropBox, Mozy, Google Docs); location services (foursquare); and, quick messaging/content sharing (Twitter). It didn’t take long for business to realize the value of social apps for marketing, advertising, and delivering service/support to a now empowered and technically savvy consumer base whose IT tools were in many ways far superior to those within the enterprise. Social app platforms became, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, a multi billion-dollar industry emerging from within, or in competition or partnership with, ‘old media’ and customer service companies.
Eventually, the consumer market became relatively saturated and entrepreneurs rushed to fill the gap in the enterprise. Surely, enterprise users who are fully trained using social platforms would jump at the opportunity of an ‘enterprise social application’ within their businesses unleashing secure collaboration and sharing between individuals, departments and different levels of employees. Innovation would explode as social applications proliferated in the enterprise. Employees would share content with one another and groups they create, or with members across the enterprise, just as they share photos on facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and the old/new darling – Flickr.
Fast forward to Winter 2012/2013. What we have now are the big three consumer social apps (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and others vying for a position in the enterprise. But without deep integration and follow up maintenance (with costs added to IT) those Social Media are going to exist as yet another silo of data that has to be actively searched for (pulled) from within an enterprise’s numerous data stores.
In another shift due to the change in how IT creates, supports and manages software assets, enterprise applications are now born of consumer technology innovation. In that context social is now going [back] to school. However, this time the technology is a mature integrated component delivered as part of a platform that is private, secure and trusted. More significantly, as a feature of a platform, users with different roles and permissions can communicate more securely and with greater efficiency with others within [and outside] the enterprise once an approved enterprise wide data and security model is enabled. Reinforcing the urgency to find solutions for students that are an extension of their day-to-day activities couldn’t come at a better time. According to a recent New York Times article; on average, students look at email about six minutes a day.
Configured in this manner, ‘Social as a Feature” in Higher Ed extends solutions for users and the enterprise through individual user adoption applied within what I can only describe as the most natural of all Social Enterprises; a University Campus. And, since the Social tool is a feature of a university wide platform the data is now freed from its silos and distributed [pushed] to the user based upon rules the user and/or the enterprise enable. The data, unencumbered by external containers can now speak for itself, further enhancing efficiencies that connect more people and spark innovation.
Use cases abound for Social as a Feature of a Platform. Students can receive notifications pushed to them a week before an assignment is due that include links to resources necessary to complete the task. Faculty can be notified via a feed of new students registering for their class that include full profiles of the student available with a few touches, clicks or swipes (depending upon the device). And, the Internet of things, once enabled can add value in ways we have not yet dreamed of – especially on a Social Campus where the Internet of Everything will be reality in just a few years.