European Transportation Systems are a lot like Social Business Software

As a Denver native, I get excited to try out the subways and metro systems of larger, more established cities. Recently I returned from a two week vacation travelling through Europe where I insisted that we take advantage of the underground transportation network that was readily available to us in each of the places we visited. Every destination posed challenges (unfortunately I don’t speak Dutch, German, Spanish, or French), yet somehow I was able to get around in every city, including stops at popular tourist destinations, restaurants, and even airports. If you aren’t familiar with Denver, our public transportation network is very weak in comparison. We have a decent bus system, but I still couldn’t fathom living without my car. It’s just not as easy to get around – I’m better off walking 1.2 miles to the grocery store instead of trying to utilize the bus.

Similarly, in my almost three years of working at NewsGator, I’ve come to learn a lot about social business software. And after trekking through the underground tunnels abroad, I realized they have a lot in common. Social business solutions are about connecting people to other people and/or information - which is very similar to what I was relying on the metro systems in each city to do.


To help illustrate my point, let’s talk about my last (and perhaps favorite) stop on the trip, Paris. Paris is huge. There’s a regional train system (RER) connected to a metro system that spans across the majority of the city. In order to figure out how to get somewhere, I used a transportation map that showed the interconnected routes to determine which train to take to my destination. I often face a very similar situation at work. I have a huge system with various information silos that can communicate with one another (much like the how the RER and the metro connect to each other). Often times I’m looking for a person to help me solve a problem or a document that contains information I’m seeking (the end point if you will). I rely on the social business solution to route me to the person or information that I need (just like the map). At the end, hopefully I’m presented with the information I was looking for (which in one Paris example was an amazing meal full of foie gras, frites, and delicious wine – among other things).

All fun aside, while abroad I also realized utilizing the public transportation systems made things easier (didn't have to deal with foreign language barriers with cab drivers) and saved us time (the trains run constantly, coming every 3-5 minutes). Similarly, these are a few of the benefits social business software also offers.

Wouldn’t you rather live in a world like Paris, where your organization takes advantage of its IP and connects you to the information you seek? Or are you happy with the ways of newer cities out west, like Denver, where you have to rely on yourself (and your car) in order to get the things that you need?

I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

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