We are in a Data Revolution.
Last year, people stored enough data to fill 60,000 Libraries of Congress (The Economist, May 26, 2011). Additionally, organizations are now capturing more detailed information about their employees and customers than ever before. From Wall Street to Walmart, people are buzzing about big data and the enterprise social graph.
To help understand this phenomenon, I interviewed Jive Software's Chief Social Scientist David Gutelius
What is the enterprise social graph?
It’s the total social context of enterprise activity. It includes everything happening “inside” an organization as workers interact, exchange information, create new things, and engage. It also includes the ambient, larger context that includes vendors, partners, competitors, shareholders, and other actors that are usually considered to be “external” to the everyday functioning of the business. Basically, the enterprise social graph is a better way to understand, analyze, and act on key drivers that modern enterprises face.
So how does it work?
The easiest way to think about it is to imagine a large network graph. It’s made up of different kinds of “nodes”, which could be individual people, artifacts (such as docs, or discussion), and even topics and groups of people.
Now, add links that tie these nodes together in some sort of relationship. Those links could be explicit things like Bob follows Sue or Bob is a member of the IT group. But they can also be implicit relationships, like Bob is linked to cybersecurity as a topic because of his behavior in the community.
Now add the element of time. The picture above is constantly changing through the course of any given day. Nodes emerge or disappear as the company hires people, enters into a new partnership, or reorganizes a division. The strength of ties between those nodes flex or weaken like a muscle, as new relationships form and others decay. A competitor announces a major product breakthrough, which sets of a chain reaction inside your company. That can be expressed as a dynamic, multidimensional graph.
Why is the enterprise social graph important?
Once you understand in a deeper way how people and things are connected, some new things are possible. For instance, you can detect redundant projects and efforts. You can locate expertise – not what’s in an employee directory, but based on what people do and what the network itself thinks their expertise is. You can begin to surface tacit knowledge and learning that’s stuck inside people’s heads. And you can match the right resources when it matters, before someone has to ask for it.
All of this boils down to helping people get through a decision-action cycle more effectively. Businesses take action. Leveraging the enterprise social graph makes it possible to loop through to decision and take action more quickly, more efficiently, and with higher quality results. If you can make better use of what’s in your network – or even just know what’s there – you gain new insight and access to potential resources relevant for the problem you’re targeting.
How is it changing Jive's products?
The enterprise social graph, as we’re enabling it, helps users get productive, find what they need, and make better decisions faster.
We’ve designed Jive to help customers leverage their own enterprise social graphs with those end goals in mind, whether they’re using Jive to power a customer support community or to collaborate with colleagues. We’re moving towards creating an enabling platform that adapts to users and their needs, where most offerings in Social Business are still passive streams of activity and communications out of context.
Can you give a practical example of the benefits to the end-user?
For instance, Jive Edge brings personalized recommendations of people, work, and artifacts to the users who should see them. Here we’re filtering and prioritizing information people need to do their jobs better, helping people literally connect the dots in their enterprise social graph, and proactively creating ad hoc teams that can address questions and needs quickly.
Jive Find, our approach to enterprise-class social search, is another example. There, we’re making use of those dynamic signals in the social graph to inform our search engine why this particular user is making this query at this time. In other words, we’re taking into account lots of information about that person to help shape search relevance – from where you work to what you do to who and what you’re connected to. We’ve put together an incredible R&D team working this and related problems.
In terms of the future, all I can say is “Buckle up!”. Our mission is the change how work gets done, and we’re just getting started with making enterprise social graphs actionable.
Want to ask David a question? Comment below.