Socializing the Enterprise

While the debate on use of public social media sites within the enterprise continues unabated, this blog is not about what enterprises need to do to manage social media access and activities of their employees.  It is about how social media platforms and capabilities can be used and integrated within the enterprise to improve productivity, reduce information overload and encourage collaboration.

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Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) have been in focus since public social media sites and tools like Facebook and Twitter have gained in popularity and use.  In the last couple of years many tools have been introduced that attempt to mimic the public social media and attempt to streamline the communications among globally spread co-workers.

The promised land of these tools is that they will reduce e-mail traffic and improve collaboration within the organization.  The expected business benefits will be reduced time to market of products, easy access to information and improved productivity with availability of experts and their advice.  Well, at least, that’s what the promise holds…

There are three aspects to ESN deployment within the enterprise – technology, culture and (meaningful) adoption.

  • The simplest of the three is technology.  Most of the ESN solutions in the market come with fairly robust set of APIs that can be used to integrate and extend the capability based on the targeted user experience.  Similar to any new technology integration, the best approach in this case would also be to define work-flows based on targeted user profile and identify integration points for social media.  The intent should be to avoid disrupting the flow, unless you plan to reengineer the business process to take advantage of new capabilities.
  • Changing the culture to encourage employees to collaborate on the social media platform will turn out to be much harder than imagined.  This becomes more crucial for the knowledge based industry where the only differentiator amongst peers would be the depth or breadth of expertise and knowledge.  The incentives that apply to me-as-a-worker are different from me-as-a-developer contributing to open source GitHub.  This is why the management will need to think about fostering a culture of collaboration and sharing instead of mandates.
  • Meaningful adoption of social media goes hand in hand with the culture.  In fact, if you create an adoption strategy that’s meaningful for the employees then it may foster collaborative culture within the organization. The worst strategy is to deploy ESN platform and wait to see what sticks.  With no clear focus the discussions and comments on the platform will go in all possible directions with no meaningful output.  Providing project level or topic level focus by senior management will help in meaningful adoption of the social media practices.

For multi-national corporations ESNs are part of essential toolkit to help integrate geographically dispersed work-force.  My recommendation would be to focus the adoption of ESNs in the areas of project collaboration, customer support, issues tracking and resolution and communication.  Once the culture of collaboration has been established then you can migrate to complex topics of knowledge sharing, product development, innovation and ideas harvesting.

- Rajeev

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Opinions expressed herein are my own and do not represent that of my employer, Intel Corporation