Enterprise Social Networking v Unified Communications

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I have to concede that enterprise social networking (SN for short) has been around for a very long time. In fact, it has been around so long that it has only recently been identified as social networking. In the not so distant past SN was called unified communications (UC) and collaboration.

I went to the Cisco Systems web site and entered social networking in the search box. They have posted several documents on their site, as recently as September, which directly links SN with UC. The first document is titled: "Social Media Release: Cisco Unified Communications System Release 7.0". In the first paragraph of this document Cisco states: "...Cisco launched the latest version of its market-leading unified communications system which offers customers choice and flexibility while enabling new ways to collaborate with co-workers, partners, vendors, and customers."

From there, I went over to the Microsoft site. They have a white paper, updated earlier this year that links SN with its SharePoint Server 2007. This document addresses how to manage the SN environment.

From Genesys Labs, another well recognized provider of unified communications for the contact center market we have: "...enable government agencies to offer better citizen-centric services...high volumes of incoming e-mails, telephone calls, text messages, chat and even Web collaboration communications."

Then I went to a couple of SN vendor sites. I learned that Lithium Technologies has teamed up with Omniture, Incorporated to provide its users with business intelligence-based metrics. The press release, issued September 16 states, "...companies can measure the impact of social media on key business drivers..." Enterprise social networks must have measurement tools associated with the environment to measure their value to the company and determine the ROI of the SN platform investment. I did not find any references to measurement tools at other SN platform providers, but that doesn't mean they don't have them.

I have calls and emails in to several vendors on both the UC and SN sides of this equation. I'm not seeing a material difference between the two technologies, so it will be interesting to hear how the vendors differentiate themselves.

If you use both these technologies inside your firm, let me know it is working for you. Does SN need to support other management tools? If so, which ones? Is presence and presence availability important in a SN environment? How about identity and identity management?

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