Over on NoJitter Eric Krapf discusses a recent Economist article and uses the points in that article as a discussion point for how the change in the economy might affect collaboration tools such as social networking, noting that while access to social networking tools might no longer be used as an incentive to lure young college graduates in a competitive job market, social networking tools now play perhaps a larger role in fostering communication and collaboration than ever before.
My sense in talking with a number of companies over recent months is that the idea that social networking and web 2.0 tools are the bevy of the younger generation has rapidly eroded. 40, 50, and even 60-somethings are rapidly discovering sites like Facebook & LinkedIn, relying on Wikipedia, and reading and/or writing blogs. Those who have lost their jobs are quickly learning to leverage social networks, not just traditional groups of friends, but on-line communities as primary means of seeking new opportunities.
From an IT executive’s perspective, social networking isn’t about giving the millenials a place to play, rather it’s about how to improve the flow of information throughout an organization, using collective knowledge to solve problems, respond to customer needs, or exploit new business opportunities faster than ever before. With the reality of many companies downsizing, social networking can enable organizations to more rapidly share knowledge, not only helping managers get a better understanding of who their “go-to” people are, but also cope with reduced workforces by enabling those who remain to more easily share information.
It’s still difficult to justify social networking purely in terms of ROI, but it may be more necessary than ever before to justify its use in terms of demonstrable business need to improve the way organizations share internal and external knowledge.
great points. its apparent that there is a need for social networking in the enterprise. however, the question is how do you get it deployed? there are no standards, and you have to deal with multiple aspects from true social networking to expertise location/talents and skills to succession planning. what do you do to overcome this?
John Bordeaux reckons that the Social Media/Web2.0 tools are the “below the waterline” tools of Information Management. Just do it!
I commend his excellent KM slidepack.
Irwin, you make some very valid points regarding social software in the enterprise. My observation is that is that the social/collaboration divide isn’t separated by generational differences as much as it is by sub-cultures within an organization.
For example, you may have an organization with “operational” folks that are used to working together on the company’s floor. To them, social software is just another tool to help them with the job they are already doing now. However, if you have managers who are used to completing tasks alone (and bonus are awarded to individuals instead of teams)…the thought of being a partner and not sole proprietor of the knowledge base can be a difficult adjustment.
I know 30-year old loners that have issues with social networking while some of the 50-year old social networkers are glad to see such tools to arrive in the lifetime of their career. There is a reason the 40+ crowd were angered when a CNET editorial claimed that seeing older folks at Facebook was disturbing. Check out the comments.
Is it “social networking”, “professional networking”, “business networking” or “Web-based networking”?
Your points about the benefits of “networking” are spot on.
- improve the flow of information
- use collective knowledge to solve problems
- respond to customer needs
- exploit new business opportunities
I’d just add that “customer needs” includes not only external customers, but internal customers across the entire org.
My company is working with a very large government contractor and they “get it” (the benefits of using Web-based networking tools to connect internally, with subcontractors, and with teaming partners).
Surprisingly they are more comfortable with using a 3rd party to facilitate this for them then doing it themselves. I suppose this is due in part to the fact that it can be done much faster via far less bureaucratic orgs.
David, I see where you are going with this in your question, “Is it ‘social networking’, ‘professional networking’, ‘business networking’ or ‘Web-based networking’? I find “social networking” too limited in capturing the type of application/services being sought by organizations.
Even Enterprise 2.0 or Web 2.0 technologies can even be hazy terms once they reach the higher executive levels of an organization. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason your large government contractor prefers to go third party is that while they may “get it” they are still internally struggling to defining and selling it.
Personally, I like Jeff Whatcott’s use of the term, social publishing system. The way he defines it implies that we’re not just talking about a specific piece of software or specific business process, but a complete information system. I tried expanding on Jeff’s ideas for social publishing systems in my own post, but I’m not so sure I succeeded.
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