Open Social Provides Standards to Help Put Social Software to Work

In 2011, customers spent $767.4 million on social software globally, and will spend almost $4.5 billion in 2016, according to IDC. That is a better than 40% growth. However, one of the factors that could work to slow down the momentum, is the involvement needed from IT departments to deploy and integrate the software. Dion Hitchcliffe, address one critical means to address this integration issue in his post, Enterprise Social Networks Need Open Standards.

Dion writes, “social media in general has proliferated so extensively now that there are often a half dozen or more social apps that we use every day in our personal lives, in the workplace, or both. But they usually have quite limited interoperability when it comes to our identities, data integration, and inter-social network user experience. Thus, our work in them is fragmented and siloed, limiting their reach and value. Standards would greatly help with this.” I could not agree more.

He goes on to note that with the rise of the app store, IT will move more into on-demand and disposable world. This will make the shelf-life of applications shorter. There must be a way to “easily and simply achieve continuity as the social foundation beneath us shifts and changes.

Open standards make it possible to swap out obsolete and outdated social components, move our data over as necessary, and keep working with as little disruption as possible.” Dion also points the need for social software to be part of the enterprise application architecture and connect with traditional work apps in a central way.

Two platforms diving in deep with the OpenSocial technology are Jive and IBM. Mark Weitzel is Director, Platform & Ecosystem, Jive Software and President, OpenSocial Foundation. He spoke at this year’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston on a panel, Designing Social Applications, with AppFusions, Ellen Feaheny and others. Mark said that one of the key things Jive recognized early on is the need for a real component model for the delivery of SaaS based apps.

Mark feels that OpenSocial is the best thing out there for this purpose. It is standards based. They put a market infrastructure around this so you can pick an app and get it installed right away like an iPhone app. OpenSocial also allows for IT controls in case you need to take out an app that is a problem.

Mark said they wanted to invoke apps within Jive in an easy way wherever you are and put it into the flow within the activity stream.  For example, AppFusions has created an OpenSocial-based JIRA in Jive integration. OpenSocial is now in the cloud version of Jive and will be coming to the on premise version by the end of the year.

I also spoke earlier with IBM’s Suzanne Livingston, Senior Product Manager for Connections. She said that the common underlying theme in the recent moves for Connections is the movement from providing a suite of applications to having Connections becoming a comprehensive social business platform with tighter integration.

One of the enablers of this tighter integration is the use of Connections with the OpenSocial Foundation, a standards board that IBM and other firms such as Microsoft, Google, Atlassian, and Jive collaboratively develop or utilize. Here is the list of OpenSocial adopters.

Wikipedia defines the OpenSocial Platform as a “public specification that defines a component hosting environment (container) and a set of common application programming interfaces (APIs) for web-based applications.” This effort is designed to give social tools the ability to work together, a wise move.

One of the major advances on the social platform evolution is the enhancement of the activity stream. I really applaud this move as I see the activity stream becoming the glue that holds the social enterprise together and make it run efficiently. To this end IBM has made its Connections activity stream open to third party apps. For example, an approval request from an SAP application can be placed into the activity stream and acted upon without leaving the activity stream.

Another example is AppFusions’ JIRA+ Enterprise Activity in IBM Connections integration, enabling integrated streams from any system integrated with JIRA — such as Box, UserVoice, Google Docs, Confluence, and any other system, to be streamed into IBM Connections. This is the type of capability that will truly enable the connected enterprise.

IBM has contributed this embedded experience capability into the OpenSocial Foundation so others can use it. So to be more specific you can take an item from a backend system, such as the SAP tracking order I mentioned, and place it into a side bar within a Connections activity stream. There it can be worked on and the results sent back to the backend system without the user actually having to go there.

The capability has opened doors for IBM to make stronger connections with other members of OpenSocial, such as Atlassian. AppFusions has partnered with IBM to create integrations between IBM Sametime with both Altassion’s JIRA tracking application and Confuence.

Open standards is a topic I have written about extensively on my Portals and KM blog and I certainly support all of Dion’s points, as well as the moves by Jive and IBM. I see open standards as one of the critical success factors for social software to enable social business and Open Social provides an effective means to address this issue.

3 thoughts on “Open Social Provides Standards to Help Put Social Software to Work”

  1. Thanks for the great post Bill. A key component to the standard is the activity stream standard http://activitystrea.ms/. This will enable the implementation of an Universal Activity Stream with events coming from multiple sources such as your enterprise social platform but also your CRM system, your HR system so you get a complete view of your enterprise in one single activity stream. At that stage the social platform wraps all the enterprise services.

  2. Thanks Yaacov – I agree that the activity stream is the core for sharing content and the ability to drawing from multiple sources is a key to making it useful. Bill

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