I won’t spend too much time promoting the use of an activity stream for an organization in this post. It’s well covered territory.

Activity stream
Instead, I will be focusing on surfacing your applications and their data in an activity stream. (Check out my previous blog post Leveraging Activity Streams in Your Portal Strategy if you are just starting to consider an activity stream for your organization.) It is our experience that leveraging an activity stream for a social layer in an organization is a highly effective way to communicate information and application data. Further targeting the content through role or persona-based personalization makes it an even more effective solution by reducing the information overload experienced at many large organizations.

There are some big differences between “custom fitting”  a social layer to an organization and forcing an organization onto a social tool or platform. When fitted to the organization based on user behavior, the rate of adoption can be very high. When forced on an organization, the platform will typically fail or, at best, be significantly under-used. One key strategy in this process is ensuring that the news, information and data that is most relevant to the user is presented in the most digestible format. Presenting application data in an activity stream can be a key component and help drive high adoption.

Key Concepts for Surfacing Data in Your Activity Stream:

  1. Know what’s relevant to your users. There should be an in-depth understanding of the roles and behavior patterns of the organization. This knowledge will be used to pre-configure settings like who and what the user will be following the first time they log in. Each user should be grouped into a role or persona with these “follows” pre-configured.
  2. Surface as much data as possible. Application data will be some of the most relevant information users will consume. This important data is kept in systems such as marketing applications, your CRM system, dashboard and BI tools, and ERP systems. Surfacing key pieces of data from these systems allows the most relevant data to be targeted and pushed to the user and easily digested. If you have used personas as models for your users behavior, deciding the most relevant data to surface for that user will be much easier. Remember, the more relevant and complete the content and data, the higher the adoption will be for the activity stream.
  3. Understand and leverage leading indicators. At DEG, empower our client partners by clearly defining strategic goals and attaching specific metrics for meeting those goals. Traditionally these metrics are measured by weekly or monthly analytics reports, dashboard, or third-party application, but occasionally through analog methods like status meetings, as well. Surfacing the critical “leading indicators” to the relevant decision makers can allow organizations to collaborate and make very fluid decisions and adjustments, greatly increasing the probability of meeting the metric.
  4. Present data to new users. Consider surfacing data to users who don’t typically access those applications. This approach can significantly extend the value of these applications. Users who have adopted the enterprise activity stream will be instantly adopting the systems being surfaced. Users who haven’t been given access to an application will find the biggest value in getting access to the data if it’s critical to decisions. Some third-party applications will also allow access to the data through APIs without charging for additional user licenses.
  5. Let users drill into the data or application. This can be especially effective if the KPIs and metrics being surfaced in the user activity stream are based on analytics and financial data. For a key decision maker, seeing data from a critical leading indicator and being able to drill into a financial report for the full data context could be the difference between a small adjustment to a process vs. a full blown financial crisis.
  6. Encourage peer-to-peer collaboration. Most social collaboration tools include the ability to comment, like, tag, and share posts. Once an organization has surfaced application data in the stream, collaboration should be encouraged. Comments, threads, and discussion can add very important context to the posted information and make it even more valuable for the organization or help draw attention to crucial KPIs.

In future posts we’ll include more real-world case studies and use cases of how DEG and are clients are surfacing application data through the social layer. For now, here’s some recommended reading on the subject from analysts and experts for additional background material.

CEO of Salesforce.com says Activity Stream primary interface for Salesforce

Where does Activity Stream’s fall on Gartner’s 2012 Hype Cycle Report

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