March 12, 2012

The Evolution of Social Business Networks

All software platforms are penultimate, at best.

We’re all accustomed to watching application categories ripen over time, gain functionality, enhance their utility, and sometimes migrate into new territory, or merge with existing platforms.

For example, the wiki category, which was so wildly popular in, say 2006, has morphed into, or been overtaken by, other more usable and functional application types, such as shared documents (e.g. Google Docs or Zoho) or now social business platforms such as Chatter, Yammer or Convofy.

In these newer platforms, noteworthy for their ease of use, users no longer have to contend with technicalities such as CamelCase words or double brackets to create links to new pages.

The social networking category itself is naturally undergoing an evolution to greater functionality and usability. In fact, barely over two years ago the category was still referred to as enterprise microblogging (a.k.a Twitter for the enterprise). But even the simplest entries in this space have gone sufficiently beyond Twitter in functionality (though not in reach) to warrant a new category name. There it is again, the constant evolution of the application species.

Social Business Networks 1.0

The first generation of Social Business Networks added important functionality beyond Twitter’s simple message bursts to include things like file sharing and shared group definitions. These two capabilities, along with a focus on creating private networks (e.g. users with the same email domain) were enough to create the new category, which we could call Social Business Networks 1.0. Chatter and Socialcast are good examples of SBN 1.0.

Social Business Networks 2.0

The next generation of the category emerged as organizations sought to get more value out of the content that was uploaded, as well as insight into the activity within the network. Also, networks added the ability to extend functionality beyond an organization to include others, generally within specified groups with no access to the primary network.

Also key in this generation has been the appearance of “apps” within the platform, as well as integration possibilities with external platforms.

The flagship product for SBN 2.0 is Yammer, which like others provides a simple preview of uploaded content but also, through a third party add-in from Crocodoc, enables simple commenting on that content.

Social Business Networks 3.0

Here at Convofy, we’re looking to define the next generation of the category. As with many third generation platforms, we’re doing more than extending the simple sharing and notification model that is the hallmark of the previous two generations.

Convofy brings together active collaboration on content with the social communication channel. This means that collaborative work can now happen in a Social Business Networking app, and become integrated into the activity feed. This may not sound worthy of a generational upgrade, but the difference in productivity and responsiveness, is astounding. And Convofy can apply this kind of integrated communication and collaboration on web pages and apps – something that no other Social Business Platform can do.

And there’s more that makes Convofy worthy of the SBN 3.0 moniker. For example, we enable real-time editing and review of your wiki-like pages, as well as real-time IM and group chat, especially convenient when jointly marking up a document.

Finally, we recognize that any viable communication platform must integrate neatly with the de facto standard for organizational messaging, which is email. So Convofy enables you to engage in discussions with your colleagues, even of some of them are participating via email only.

Here’s the evolutionary scoreboard from our perspective:

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