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BBM Channels : An Unexpected Guest For Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) ?

|Includes: BlackBerry Ltd. (BB)

It's a fair game we all speculate about ($BBRY) BlackBerry's strategy and whether or not it's going to be be a disruptive or a continuous one. I for one believe it'll be a follow-up of previous strategy (I mean Heins' era) while it will probably focus on the enterprise (in its widest meaning) at the expense of the customers branch. But that's another topic I won't discuss further here. Yet, in this perspective, I did some digging about an unadvertised (as of date) area where channels may encounter success : Enterprise Social Networking (ESN).

That specific area market is not mature yet, because the offering does not meet - in an Enterprise context - the efficiency it has in the consumer context: Social networking. Before I go further, I believe it worth a definition, to draw the picture clearly :

Source: wikipedia

Enterprise Social Networking focuses on the use of online social networks or social relations among people who share business interests and/or activities. Enterprise social networking is often a facility of enterprise social software (regarded as a primary component of Enterprise 2.0), which is essentially social software used in "enterprise" (business/commercial) contexts. It encompasses modifications to corporate intranets (referred to as social intranets) and other classic software platforms used by large companies to organize their communication, collaboration and other aspects of their intranets. Enterprise social networking is also generally thought to include the use of a standard external social networking service to generate visibility for an enterprise.

Described as "modern" enterprises' darling, it has yet a very poor deployment or at least a very weak users adoption rate, to the point some may pretend it's "dead in the egg" (DOA). It is brilliantly described in a rich article from CXP Chief Editor Claire Leroy (in French) and most of the below is inspired by her writing.

Let's take another picture :

Source: Claire Leroy (personal translation)

[...] we must consider another reality much less "glamorous" relative failure, or at least more advanced than the laborious ESN or Enterprise social network, supposed to be the equivalent of a Twitter or Facebook transposed scale (necessarily miniaturized) company and circumscribed within its organization. All surveys conducted in 2013 are bitter fact: companies remained, since the emergence of ESN in the early 2010s, generally resistant to the use of so-called "social" tools. At best, there would be in France just a few hundreds companies having deployed a ESN (or planning to): a disappointing situation, it must be admitted, after the enthusiastic buzz that the concept raised two-three years ago.

Yet everyone agrees to confer Enterprises Social Networking business virtues and indisputable advantages

Source: Claire Leroy (personal translation)

[ESN is] based on the same principle and share the same ambition [ than customers' SN] : unite people around common interests and projects. In fact, nobody seems to dispute the contributions of ESN, which are considerable. Better sharing of knowledge and expertise, modernization of the collaborative approach based on a global tool and centralized development of interpersonal relationships, development of employees, creation of "social bond" ... many levers that companies desperately need today to evolve and be proactive, especially in the depressed socio-economic climate that is ours now.

While social-everything is the trendy "e-behavior" (with evolution from FaceBook to SnapChat) and you can't watch any TV show or news without twitter being named at least once, in the enterprise: it just don't fit. So, where are the bottlenecks ? I found the Wikipedia entry pretty insightful about it :

Source : Wikipedia

Lack of adoption
If training in the use of enterprise social networking tools is not provided to employees who do not have experience using them, they are unlikely to be widely adopted. The use of enterprise social networking must be championed at the highest levels of the enterprise to provide the resources needed and promote adoption throughout the organization. Gartner have said that only 10% of organizations see value in a social collaboration product, primarily due to the lack of change management provided during rollout.

The sharing of information across the enterprise through via social networking creates a transparency that may or may not necessarily be welcomed by all sectors of the organization.

There is often an assumption that social networking will not work well in a particular industry or that its use may be perceived as unprofessional. In addition the ability to justify use of enterprise social networking, based on return on investment is not always readily apparent.

Privacy and security
Because social tools make many things that were normally private much more public, including all types of corporate data, many organizations would rather wait for best practices or to see what their peers are doing before delving very far into social networking. Privacy can become a huge issue at the enterprise level, when customer and employee data are at stake. Security concerns must be addressed prior to embarking upon creation of an enterprise social network.

Behavioral issues
One of the significant areas of concern with the use of social networking internally within organizations is the impact and effect of behavioral issues. As the interactions within a social network are loosely coupled to business process and structured information systems, the effect of individual personalities and human psychology become more pronounced within social networks. Such emerging concerns cover issues such as attention management, death by trivia, dominant personalities, behavioral adoption and influence strategies.

But Claire Leroy also adds a very important aspect of things; to be ESN ready, an enterprise must adopt a Social approach and a matching management structure.

Source : Claire Leroy (personal translation)

We arrive at the paradox for a successful ESN project [enterprise] must already be a "social enterprise", but how to become a "social business" without ever having a ESN key driver of this "socializing" Culture?

Tell me about the chicken and the egg ...

Bottom line :

The spark may be the tool. As I was performing my research about ESN, I've read articles and tools documentation that required all my efforts and a lot of approximate translations before I got the slight idea of "how to ..." : Setting up an ESN sounds as complex as building a nuclear plant and - as a consultant - I heard instantly the objections of my clients (from associations to multi-national companies) : "what for ?", "where is the ROI ?", "how long will it take ?" to name the obvious top three.

With my candid eyes (I must admit I'm nowhere ESN specialist), I cannot refrain seeing BlackBerry Channels in conjunction (or not) with ScrOOn as one possible accelerator in this area. The key factors here are (anticipating the release of Channels for Android and iOs due "end of year"-ish) :

  • Identified and autonomous redactors (Head of service/project, team manager, P.R, documentalist ...)
  • Ephemeral nature : a channel can be instantly set for a specific purpose (event, project,"disaster recovery" ...) and fully disappear in a snap or stand for years (documentation, archives, project follow-up ...)
  • "Noise Free" V.S "catchall" communication : you don't have to browse through 25 P.R articles if your core interest is H.R
  • Instant and costless implementation
  • Targeted and secured Channels with groups/audience on invite only (Channels can be unlisted V.S public)
  • Modern and hassle free notifications with matching support (mobile): No, I don't believe desktop is a must-have, I even pretend it raises more problems than offers benefits in this particular scenario !
  • One to one private interactions (+ one-to-group chat/BBM voice/video) within the channels
  • Many to many cooperation within the channels (incl. "moderation": read deletion)
  • Social content federation on the Croon Platform allows a "cost less" internal/external social feed control
  • (BES10/BB10) The balance feature offers enhanced bullet proof security for documentation, reports, collaborative drafts and work in progress projects. This is "fingerprint free"; one leaves the company he lost all contents (no copy/ unmonitored transmission available outside work perimeter)

... As I'm typing, more key factors appear, but if you've been kind enough to read decrypt until this line, I bet you got the point.

BBM Channels offers a one-to-many/many-to-many secured, "noise-free" and user friendly social environment many companies may look at as the funding of the promised land they never saw anywhere but on paper. As a "do it yourself now" solution, it will promote BlackBerry brand and devices. As a "Full story" (customers (featured) channels + internal channels), in conjunction with Scroon, it'll do the previous and generate revenues.

I had a dream ... make it real !

References and quotes :
Claire Leroy/CXP : EDITO - Les réseaux sociaux d'entreprise ont-ils vécu ? | Conseil et analyse en solutions logicielles pour l'entreprise et ses métiers
Wikipedia : Enterprise social networking - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Scroon : ScrOOn, The Social Media Architects and

P.S to Frank Boulben : thank you for that.

Disclosure: I am long BBRY.

Additional disclosure: I'm French, sorry for grammar and spelling mistakes