In my travels through the Social Business universe, I'm regularly struck by how often I hear software companies talking about social as if it were an entirely different software animal -- a visitor from Planet Facebook, if you will. You know, that place where we all live in the stream and random people we have met throughout our lives drop in and out of our social living rooms with bulletins on their lives.

 

Since I work at Jive, I’m clearly biased. But here’s an insightful theory from Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm. Enterprise IT has been locked for the past 20 years in an era of “Systems of Record.” Databases, CRM systems, and accounting software are all designed to capture transactions for posterity.

 

But Social Business, like social media is a friendlier software buddy, a critter that is more interested in context than transactions. Context is simply not in the vocabulary of legacy enterprise software, and because of this you’ll find that social data doesn’t easily fit into the structured format of the records we’ve maintained for the last couple decades.

 

Yet, context will define the next generation of enterprise IT -- a generation focused more on “Systems of Engagement” that are geared towards capturing context and the many other squishy, fuzzy parts of interactions between companies and customers and within companies themselves. And these are the parts of a relationship that comprise the truly valuable knowledge that can make the difference on a sales call or in a new product launch.

 

Systems of Record would tell you that your friend from high school now works at company XYX, lives in St. Louis, and likes chocolate. A System of Record will give you the address, title, and a few extra details about a customer.

 

But a System of Engagement would let you recall exactly how this friend reacted to the box of white chocolate you sent last year (they prefer dark but white is good because their husband/wife likes dark and eats it all), how many weeks they went on vacation, and what articles in the New York Times intrigue them.

 

In the same vein, a System of Engagement will let you look back at how a customer interacted during the sales process, whether they wanted a white paper or a video, how long it took them to make their decision, and who else they had to consult in their company, and whether they felt comfortable discussing technical details or needed a more technical team member. Both systems will co-exist forever -- the capture of a transaction record is essential for accounting processes and running a business.

 

But Planet Facebook and the insistent incursion of ways to capture, manage and search through past engagements inform smart decisions based on contextual information that Systems of Record aren’t good at providing.

 

What do you think? Will bringing more context into the enterprise and adding “Systems of Engagement” drive a new revolution in Enterprise IT?