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January 10, 2011

Enterprise Collaboration and Social CRM - exploring the relationship?

Often, I have come across the term "Enterprise collaboration" and that too mostly in the context of Social CRM.  In my view, the primary relationship between Enterprise collaboration and Social CRM is due to 'Social' behavior shown by the people and that's about it. The objective for using either of these in the organization can be as different as chalk and cheese.

To put things in perspective, what is meant by collaboration?  Collaboration is people working together in teams contributing to tasks to achieve a desired outcome. Hence from the enterprise parlance, in a stricter sense, it has to deal with only internal collaboration. Assuming the term enterprise can be expanded to all stakeholders like Partners and customers, and then collaboration with them will become part of it. At ground level the CRM deals with Marketing, Sales and Service functions of the enterprise. To say that internal collaboration within these functions supports CRM in a direct way is justifiable. This collaboration is vital to let teams within these functions provide a better experience to the customers. But, does an enterprise deals with only these functions? Not really, as there are Operations, HR, Finance, Strategy and IT Functions to name a few. Interestingly since these too have teams working to make functions more efficient and productive, social media collaborative tools are applicable here too.
If that is the case how does the enterprise collaboration fit in as a part of Social CRM only? Considering its scope, it definitely has a much wider reach. 

So what are the reasons for Social CRM and Enterprise Collaboration being considered synonymous?

a. Offerings in the market: Many players in the market claim to provide community platforms and also either integrations with different CRM systems or standalone dashboards.

b. Collaboration is Social: In literal terms, collaboration is one aspect of Social behavior of people.

c. Customer-centric organizations - providing community platforms for customer-customer, customer-employee interactions is one of the key implementations that organizations are going for to being perceived as customer-centric.

Still, are both really interchangeable? Enterprise collaboration talks about a well-defined strategy of enterprises to use collaboration at work front. The objectives could be related to improvement in project management, inter-department collaboration or employee engagement. Though, if an organization identifies the need of collaboration on customer-facing channels of Marketing, Sales & Service, this is where it shares a common ground with Social CRM and hence an intersection. Social CRM uses collaboration to fulfill different set of objectives like product co-creation, knowledge management and community support. 

Hence, an organization needs to have a well laid out plan for both enterprise collaboration and Social CRM. These are not layers so thinking that incorporating Social CRM will also fulfill enterprise collaboration or vice versa should be avoided.

Considering the various viewpoints on these topics, hoping this helps in clear the ambiguity J