July 29, 2009

Social Networking and the Enterprise - Part 2 : Why should we bother?

We've already established relevant definitions and put together a visual fabric about how Enterprise 2.0, ECM, Enterprise Social Software and Social Web stitch together.

Although the point of this exercise is to determine how regulated entities should incorporate Social Networking strategy, we should first establish the 'why' and 'if'.

So, why is it important to consider Social Networking as part of an organization's information sharing and collaboration strategy? Let's look at some top-level drivers:

1. Technology Populism:
This really puts pressure on organizations to act and to give their knowledge workers the tools they require to share and collaborate. Although somewhat dependent on the demographics - and by extension the culture - of the organization, people are increasingly finding or using their own solutions. If your organization doesn't have an in-house IM application, guess what? They’re going to use their own MSN. No online collaboration spaces? Maybe your employees will start using a solution like Google Docs or TeamViewer.

2. Enterprise Software meets UEX and Social Networking:
Many Content Management Systems (Red Dot, MOSS, etc.) are now shipping with built-in Social Networking apps - better integration and Usability make these a reasonable option with easier adoption

3. Cloud Computing and the virtual desktop: Innovations in cloud computing are making the virtual desktop the norm thus reducing the cost of connecting workers and thereby increasing the potential reach of corporate social networks.

It’s not all sunshine, however. A recently released survey by eMarketer reveals that 45% of Social Media Marketers think that Social Media is not effective at improving internal communications.

Taken from a Forrester paper “Facebook for the Enterprise”: Catchy Phrase or a Strategy for Collaboration”, there are other considerations as well.

1. “Notifications” and “tweets’ assume more connectivity is better. I don’t regularly use our internal IM application and I have trouble keeping up with Twitter.

2. Interruptions sap information work productivity. Research suggests that it takes workers 25 minutes to return to what they were working on.

3. Professional capital needs identity, reputation and objectivity. Translated: I can pretend to be anyone on Facebook or Twitter (although this is changing with vanity URLs), but within an organization, identities need to be verifiable. This is where Identity Management and Role Based Access Control Lists becomes critical.

There are also legal and Intellectual Property issues to consider. Even with safeguards in place, employees will find ways to let knowledge walk out the door. And, the ill-timed release of sensitive information can land companies in trouble with regulators.

So, there are things to consider on both the positive and negative side of the equation. With the ‘Why’ out of the way, it’s time to move onto the ‘if’. Before we even consider how an organization, particularly a regulated one, should implement a Social Networking strategy, we need to ask if they should even bother. That’s next in Part 3.

1 comment:

David said...

Regarding Tech Populism. Though folks may want to use their own IM or collaboration spaces the company may have restrictions in place preventing them from working in ways intended. People tend to then convert applications, by sheer numbers and brute force alone, whose purpose was one thing into something else to suite social networking purposes. e.g. A classifieds system into a discussion board.