As I reflect on the ideas that came out of this week's Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, I can't help but be reminded that the beauty of business social software is that it is rarely designed with a "one size fits all' approach. Software providers that walk in on day one and tell a business how it has to change it order to get results from their software rarely make it.
As many of the conference speakers pointed out, online community software for business must have broad feature sets and flexible options to maximize the fit for a specific company or industry. For instance, some companies have a strong partner channels or supply chains which they need to engage, while others have a passionate customer and non-customer fan base that supports their brand image and brings in new business. Still, others put the emphasis on employee and customer collaboration.
While all software comes with a methodology for how it gets results, the platform itself has to be flexible enough to handle diverse revenue models, organizational structures, and community demographics. Businesses are looking for the tools to engage their employees, customers, and other stakeholders, while providing a collaborative platform to discuss challenges and share ideas among groups of a manageable size.
Along with openness and transparency, businesses need specific segmentation within their online community so that each user's experience is efficient and productive. Members of your online community don't want to have to dig through irrelevant content and discussions to get their business done.
In the same light, I wonder if businesses and enterprise social software providers that focus on only one of those audiences are missing the big picture. If a business implements a solution to increase employee collaboration, are they missing an opportunity both to enable employees to collaborate and also empower those employees to better engage customers, partners, prospects, and fans?