The ultimate value of social business may not be in the areas of customer engagement and employee knowledge management and collaboration. Those things certainly have tremendous and clearly demonstrable benefits, but the greatest opportunity in the years ahead may be in the social enablement and modernization of enterprise applications.
So far, though, this area has gotten little attention. That will probably change; Gartner predicts that as early as 2015, 20% of enterprises that employ social media beyond marketing will lead their industries in revenue growth. I believe that the value will derive primarily from what I'd term "social automation."
Many enterprise applications are legacy tools that remain vital to running core operations. They often automate key business transactions such as managing flight bookings at an airline, transferring funds at a bank or distributing financial aid at a government agency. And many of them have been modernized, so that they are accessible via browsers, mobile devices and the cloud. Today, they are being enhanced and modernized anew, this time for social computing. (See my column on charting a four-phase adoption cycle for this.)