Make Work Better – The Technical Side
It’s hard to imagine someone who would argue against the idea of making work better. The nice thing is that at Sitrion, we have defined and broken that down into just four parts:
- Be engaged
- Be connected
- Be smart
- Be productive
Seems like a pretty cool definition, so now we just have to build it! Well, maybe we need to spend a little time breaking this down one more level and then we’ll build it!
Being engaged is probably the hardest concept of all of these to put a technical definition around. At the simplest level, it means bringing the right information to people and letting them easily interact and share. This creates the involvement and feeling of influence beyond your typical boundaries that is the current foundation of engagement. But there’s much more that’s possible here. We can let people express themselves with more depth, and we can be more
aware of how people are feeling. From a technical perspective this means adding more mechanisms to collect this input and analyze the data. In turn, this can lead to features that intelligently prompt users. It’s a fine line to balance - what one user finds to be engaging and rewarding, another user may find to be noisy. So the answer here is a mixture of smart technology and understanding user behaviors.
Being connected is more straightforward to understand as a definition, but it’s just as hard to technically deliver. Being connected means access to your social platform wherever you are. The most obvious example here is mobile, but this also includes things like extending the stream so it can run in other places or working from within your email client. Generally, the technical challenges here are primarily around security. Especially for mobile, many companies are working through the decision of how to easily yet securely let their workers get their jobs done on smartphones and tablets. We wrote a blog post on just this subject recently, but the bottom line is that being connected is all about working with the infrastructure and business realities of enterprises.
When you say you want your software to help people “be smart”, you’re saying that the software will always keep evolving. At the end of 2013, there were several articles written about how streams have limitations. This is undoubtedly true. But, more importantly, social collaboration platforms need to do much more than just provide a stream. Social platforms need to continuously get smarter because they form the hub of next generation businesses. From a technical perspective, this means a couple different things. First, it means that we need to be able to take in lots of different kinds of data and handle it intelligently. This is where we constantly experiment with things like natural language processing, predicting value of posts, and looking for ways to leverage existing enterprise structures like email distribution lists to drive other benefits (like pre-configuring your new sales person with a view of sales leadership updates filtered out of the stream). Second, being smart means recognizing business use cases and delivering them as complete solutions that leverage the social infrastructure. You’ve seen some of that in the internal communications and innovation work we’ve done, and there’s much more to tackle going forward.
Putting “be productive” as the last item in this list certainly does not make it least important. When we say “make work better”, we’re not just saying that we want everyone to be happier at work. We want people to feel more satisfied because they get more things done and the things they get done are the important things. From a technical perspective then, being productive has a lot to do with efficiently getting through the standard processes and routines. This, in turn, mean enabling individuals to do as many transactions as possile like requesting vacation time without bogging everyone down in difficult-to-use ERP systems. To do this, we need to elegantly integrate with systems like SAP and deliver a beautiful and flexible user experience. We also need to integrate social collaboration in context into all the work activities whether it’s a conversation around a document or question center for HR self-service.
As a “technical” blog post, this isn’t very technical. Each of the major parts of our “make work better” goal contains dozens of key components. Each component has dozens of interesting situations. Here’s a tiny example. As part of “be connected”, we provide a software tunnel capability to allow easy mobile access to systems behind the firewall. But with some networking hardware, software tunnels have problems ensuring a connection stays open to allow easy communication. And that is not even a technical description of the problem. But the point is that we understand the technical complexity of the infrastructure of large customers, and we love to dive into complex problems.
At the beginning of this post, I said that since we have our simple, four-point definition, we could go ahead and build the solution. The truth is that we’ve already built it! Now we’re just unifying all of this under one name – Sitrion. Of course, we’re not stopping. Delivering improvements in being engaged, connected, smart and productive require constant innovation. And we’re excited to keep innovating because we truly do want to make work better.