There is a movement taking place in the IT industry that is really driven by major consumer technology vendors like Apple, Google, and Facebook. What these three companies do is really starting to set the tone for what people expect from a software application. The expectations of a software application may have historically centered around its ability to solve business problems or to enable specific types of transactions or management processes. Today, the software application is expected to let users communicate and interact with each other the way that they can on Facebook. Organic and guided search as found on Google is also expected, as is the intuitive usability of the iPad.
In fact, employees and managers of most any business are already communicating with each other through various Web 2.0 technologies -- the problem being that all of this communication is taking place outside the bounds of formal and secure IT systems.
While some business software companies work to integrate their offerings directly with online tools like Twitter or Facebook, the real business benefits will come from ERP (enterprise resources planning) and other enterprise software that mimics the functionality of these popular online tools. This serves to improve internal communication and pull company business currently taking place outside of ERP systems back into the enterprise.
The critical role of security
One primary deliverable of an ERP solution is the enhanced data and organizational security that result from access to company data being strictly controlled. Security is also provided by the ERP's ability to control which individuals within a company can complete various business tasks and processes and by the ability to track, after the fact, transactions that have taken place.
When technologies or individuals circumvent ERP, these security measures are rendered ineffective. Building social media-type enterprise 2.0 functionality into ERP will leverage the inherent security benefits of the ERP system. Furthermore, the security of social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and various instant messaging services is not as robust as that of a 21st century ERP system. If executives are using these public tools to discuss mission-critical matters, this increases the risk profile of the organization on a number of levels. Using social media can compromise the ability to ensure that critical and potentially damaging information is not accessed by unauthorized people, in addition, the preservation of content from conversations for legal and regulatory purposes is at risk. Free public social media on its face presents a challenge because the technology and your enterprise data are housed on servers through a license that may be poorly understood or subject to change without notice.
Increased focus, knowledge retention
Building social media functionality into an ERP platform will also help ensure that employees using Web 2.0 tools like instant messaging or wikis are not leaving their working context and are likely to remain more productive. Harder to quantify but also important is the degree to which the workforce enjoys the tool they are using. Intuitive communication tools like enterprise 2.0 can cause workers to more closely follow updates about what is going on within the company -- even when they are not at the office.