Enterprise systems of engagement — social designers needed

Brushing up on the state of the art within enterprise systems, and the conversations about user experience in particular. This post from 2012 cites the importance of UI and user experience to increasing numbers of enterprise decision makers.   The Move from Systems of Record to Systems of Engagement. Little surprise there. The consumerization of technology has birthed a renaissance in design in the past five years. It was just a matter of time before enterprise software and application developers would be forced to catch up.

But I don’t think this is just a matter of user interface design. I see social design as being equally important. If the enterprise is interested in systems of engagement, and a social layer on top of its systems of record, then this owes as much to the success of social sites as it does to interface design. Social networking (and its many offspring) demonstrate that social tools are not strictly computing or networking technologies only. They are communication systems. And their ability to engage users is a reflection of their success in structuring and organizing social interaction — from simple actions (e.g sharing) up to genres of activity (career networking).

I’d like to see more appreciation of this distinction. Designing enterprise engagement systems is more than a matter of improved interfaces. It’s social architecture. An understanding of user (employee) roles, positions, and needs for sharing, communicating, searching, filtering, and more. While these features should be appropriately designed to appear social and engaging (reflecting the idiom, if you will), they should be brought together for optimal social adoption. As anyone who’s been around for KM and ERP knows, bending the habits of employees to embrace enterprise applications is no easy task. And certainly is not a simple matter of socializing corporate workflows.

I suspect that in time, user experience professionals interested in enterprise work (and vice versa) will develop a repertoire of social design skills. These will span interface, architecture, interaction, communication, and search; will develop the employee profiles; extend and adapt proven forms of interaction (Q/A; recommendations; blogging; etc); and hopefully also invent new and interesting ways to adapt popular social tools. This all takes time, money, and support. But if there’s a market ready for meaningful innovation, this is certainly one of them.

 

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