Social Networks in the Enterprise

While the popularity of social networks is undeniable, this particular breed of Web 2.0 platforms seems to be facing the most criticism with regards to its application, relevance and value in organizations today. In any case, also undeniable is the fact that organisations are increasingly adopting social networks for the internal and external networking of employees and customers. Research-in-Motion Co-CEO Jim Balsallie commented at the 2009 GSMA Mobile World Congress, as reported by Dan Farber of ZDNET:

“Once social networking becomes a B2B phenomenon–not unlike IM and texting–I believe every single social-networking user will want a data plan.”

As this is one of three posts on the main E2.0 tools used within the Enterprise – Blogs, Wikis and Social Networks, I would like to borrow from Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business, a fellow at the Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and one of the most influential Enterprise 2.0 Gurus:

“We need to keep in mind that most E2.0 tools are new, and that their acceptance depends on shifts in perspective on the part of business leaders and decision makers, shifts for which the word ‘seismic’ might not be an overstatement. Enterprise 2.0 tools have no inherent respect for organizational boundaries, hierarchies, or job titles. They facilitate self-organization and emergent rather than imposed structure. They require line managers, compliance officers, and other stewards to trust that users will not deliberately or inadvertently use them inappropriately. They require these stewards to become comfortable with collaboration environments that “practice the philosophy of making it easy to correct mistakes, rather than making it difficult to make them” as Jimmy Wales has said. They require, in short, the re-examination and often the reversal of many longstanding assumptions and practices. It is not in the least disrespectful or contemptuous of today’s managers to say that it will take them some time to get used to this.”

Given the rapid increase in the popularity of social networks, Deloitte has the following to say about the trend in 2009:

“While questions grow about consumer social networks’ varying ability to monetize their hundreds of millions of users, enterprises are looking at how they can harness the hierarchy-flattening, information-sharing, teambuilding power of social networks.”

Here is a brilliant example from CIO.com, on how a world leader in innovation – 3M, uses social networks to better develop product ideas.

During the GFC, 3M wanted its employees to focus on the future of its’ product innovations process and not on the economic slowdown. As a result, 3M’s Corporate Knowledge Management group partnered with its Corporate Strategy and Corporate IT groups to create an enterprise social network open to all 75,000 global employees, of which 1,239 people in 42 countries participated to generate 736 ideas grouped into 26 market clusters. This process directly resulted in the identification of 9 future markets enabled only by the increased employee engagement over 8 short weeks!

Another good case of Enterprise Social Networks, reported by Dan Berthiaume from CTOEdge in the article ‘Salesforce.com Embraces Social Networks for the Enterprise’ highlights some of the key features of the platform and the benefits of using Salesforce Chatter, internally. According to Berthiaume:

“Salesforce.com is positioning itself to play a key role in adapting the refined interactive capabilities of online social networks to business enterprise communications.”

Certainly, it is hard to predict how social networks will evolve in tandem with the Enterprise, however it is clear that they are probably the best method in employee engagement, and with their tendency to go viral – are also the most low-cost method of collaboration in the Enterprise.

References

Berthiaume, D. 2009. Salesforce.com Embraces Social Networks for the Enterprise. Retrieved September 19, 2010 from http://www.ctoedge.com/content/salesforcecom-embraces-social-networks-enterprise

Deloitte. 2009. Social networks in the enterprise: Facebook for the Fortune 500. Retrieved September 19, 2010 from http://www.deloitte.co.uk/TMTPredictions/technology/Social-networks-in-the-enterprise.cfm

Farber, D. 2008. 2009: The year of enterprise social networks. Retrieved September 19, 2010 from http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/2009-the-year-of-enterprise-social-networks/7997

McAfee, A. 2007. Enterprise 2.0 May be Fine for the Business, But What About the IT Department? Retrieved September 19, 2010 from http://andrewmcafee.org/2007/11/enterprise_20_may_be_fine_for_the_business_but_what_about_the_it_department/

Swanborg, R. 2010. Social Networks in the Enterprise: 3M’s Innovation Process. Retrieved September 19, 2010 from http://www.cio.com/article/592271/Social_Networks_in_the_Enterprise_3M_x2019_s_Innovation_Process

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About Shri Ram
Senior Project Manager with 8 years of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) and business management experience in the private sector with key emphasis on program management, strategic project management, account management, vendor management and best-in-class product development utilizing PMBOK/PRINCE2/Agile Project Management Methodologies.

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