Consumer software can solve tactical issues such as shallow and broad content needed by many people. Applications such as Facebook and Myspace can be used to identify where people are. These social tools can mobilize groups quickly. Just look how Twitter gets used to pose questions and get quick answers.
When do you benefit from using social software:
- When the number of ad hoc meetings increase
- Projects involve members that span geographies and divisions
- Okay ... let's think of other pointers
Enterprise transactional software can be considered "anti-social" software. I sometimes wonder if Sharepoint is verging on being "Anti-social" by virtue of how it imposes structure on what are often unstructured activities.
As enterprises we have to recognize that our people are running their lives online. Why is our work life different? It isn't it is just that enterprises have been slow to adopt these new applications and services.
The benefits of Enterprise Social Software
Leverage informal interactions. Identify patters from implicit actions. Enable Emergent Structure. The fear to be dealt with is that the emergent patterns will cut across the formal structures in an organization.
Social Software brings multiple benefits:
- Volume turns from a liability in to a benefit
- Leverage the wisdom of the crowds
- Tap in to one to one and many to many interactions
- A visual navigation mechanism can emerge driven by the evolving structure
- There is a low barrier to entry both in terms of cost and effort.
- It adapts rapidly as information is captured.
- Many small insights become more valuable than one big idea.
Meetings, meetings, meetings.....
Social software drives a constant stream of updates and fewer status meetings.
Social software enables constant communication and less latency
Social software drives email to become a shared resource. Discussions move online and drive out inaccuracy.
Locking out Facebook, YouTube and other consumer sites from your enterprise network may save on bandwidth but at the same time it cuts off access to an incredible pool of knowledge. Find critical expertise outside the organization. Grab that "how-to" video to solve a problem. Publish a video to promote your own products.
Four lessons from Social Software
- Volume matters
- Reputation matters. Anonymity is not good especially in an enterprise context
- Participation matters
- weak ties with a large group via many channels.
This is almost counter to traditional deployment methods. Starting small is counter productive.
Reputation and the lack of anonymity is the simplest form of governance.
Weak ties enable wider participation and will cause the status quo to be challenged.
Strong governance needs to be carefully balanced. The stronger the governance and control the greater the inflexibility for the future.
Even Gartner is saying "Don't block Facebook and YouTube, etc." At the very least it can make recruitment of newer, younger talent harder to do. At the very least your customers may be there - why aren't you?
Internet filtering is a technical response to a management problem. Is it a case of managers being afraid to manage?
Best practices. The best guidance is to avoid over-engineering
- Open and easy to use
- Expose connections through rich profiles, tags and bookmarks
- Bridge to email to introduce people and enable incremental formalization
- People first - target novel and non-routine activities
- Provide initial structure - avoid a blank slate but keep the structure flexible. Role it out in a guerilla mode - avoid the big bank.
- Lead by example: reward with attention. Get the senior management on board.
Move from technical controls to social controls.
The system is responsible > WE are responsible
Required fields > wiki edits
Security roles and rules > sign-less traffic
Key performance indicators > do the right thing
It's Tough ... Especially letting go.
There can be a loss of control. You have to watch for compromised quality and the stupidity of crowds. Once again Social controls come in to play. WE (not They) are responsible.
Interestingly in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Social Software Socialtext is one of the few companies in the visionary quadrant - it just needs to scale it's ability to execute. Recent partnerships with Microsoft and IBM may help that scaling effort.
Where to start
- Rethink blocking policies
- review your culture - is it ready for change
- Appeal to self-interest
- Anticipate problems that come from open information access
- Expect more products from enterprise software providers and expect them to build social functionality in to existing products.