There's a lot of interest these days on building what are known as systems of engagement, which are intended to make it easier to create deeper levels of affinity between customers, employees and business partners.
Obviously, social networks play a big role in making that happen. But the folks at Moxie Software, a provider of a social networking platform in the cloud, are trying to remind IT organizations that not all systems of engagement are the same. There is a significant difference, for example, between building a system of engagement for customers versus employees, and it's critical for information to be easily shared across those systems.
To address this issue, Moxie has created Spaces Connect, an integration framework for the various instances of social network applications that can be built on top of the Moxie service. That service includes implementations for customer-facing social networks, internal employee networks and business partner networks. Spaces Connect provides the framework for integrating those instances not only with each other, but with a range of third-party applications as well. In addition, Moxie rolled out Expert Connect, which is designed to more tightly integrate customer service and support operations with the people who are subject-matter experts in any given area.
According to Nikhil Govindaraj, vice president of products for Moxie Software, one of the problems that organizations routinely experience with social networking investments in the enterprise is that those engagement systems are not very well integrated with the people and processes that actually drive the business. In fact, a recent survey of 2,221 working adults conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Moxie Software finds that there is still a significant amount of skepticism as it relates to social networking in the enterprise. Govindaraj says much of this skepticism stems from that fact that most social networking implementations for the enterprise wind up being isolated from the actual business.
In contrast, Govindaraj says Moxie is using a set of integration services that not only unifies different classes of engagement systems, but also provides a frictionless way to integrate those systems with existing business processes.
Obviously, it's still early in terms of assessing the real impact of social networks in the enterprise. But just like any other enterprise application, social networks need to demonstrate a meaningful return on investment that goes well beyond replacing existing asynchronous email systems with a group-oriented approach to sharing the same information using a different medium.