Social Networking across the Enterprise Part 3
Barricading the enterprise from social networking technologies and tools can only isolate it from the “marketplace” where customers, partners, prospective clients and competitors are trading information.
Already, Enterprise content management systems are interweaving ‘social features' into their portal experience. Feeds and connects to and from social networking sites are ample evidence of this bustling, two-way traffic.
HR divisions of corporations in quest of candidates clearly see exponential benefits in looping in the extensively linked body of users on a Twitter, or a Facebook.
Austin based Life Size communications for example, seamlessly streamlines users from their corporate site to facebook, instantly accessing a larger candidate base via the applicant’s connections.
Can’t Avoid the Speeding Train
Increasingly Application service providers, consultants, are brought in to enable sharing with tools like Google docs, SharePoint portal technologies, the latter on the cusp of social networking features, with its retentive blogs and targeted content often replacing Wiki in the workplace.
Compliant collaboration within the enterprise is the objective of tools such as MOSS 2007. Social Networking in its infinite richness of content and communication paths, and its greater facility for linked data takes that structured and often timed collaboration and converts it to a communication coffee lounge….a constant free flow of inspiration and ideas.
The difference is that of degree and kind. As with other technology tools, governance, process, training and trust determine the success of such an initiative. Twittering at work can be a learned art, an acquired skill, if compliance is defined and then communicated during training, one division at a time.
The Tipping Point
One would be hard pressed to find the executive who is not skeptical about the infiltration of social networking technologies into the corporate workplace. Admittedly, there is some cause for their concern, especially in the worst of economic times. The already distracted and distracting employee who currently drifts to MySpace in its social incarnation but with a vague sense of guilt (don’t look behind you right now, but your manager is watching you!) will do so with élan, once the tool is ‘legit’. Name any corporation that can afford low productivity in 2009 – a year that has ironically, been dubbed the year of social networking in blogs and news columns alike.
The custodians and stakeholders of compliant use of these ‘promethean’* tools must be hand-picked from the middle management ranks. They shall be the foot soldiers for the responsible and reasonably fettered use of the facebooks that make it in - properly ‘screened and badged’ of course! In their corporate incarnation, social networks must be constructed with building blocks from the enterprise itself.
Keep it Kosher
For example, within the ‘confines’ of Facebook for the enterprise 1.0, foundations must be laid with ‘relevant’ technical and marketing data, exchanged with corporate etiquette, between active directory users who utilize business objects, corporate site pages, emails, spreadsheets, knowledge performance indicator data – in short, content contoured by business requirements, meeting agendas to layer content that is piled high in a defined yet free-flowing structure.
Certain social networks reinvented for the enterprise, the early players in this space, restrict the creation of home pages and anchor user profiles to ‘business-friendly’ needs. To be fair, most companies looking seriously to promote themselves on Facebook will likely try a sophisticated approach that takes advantage of the platform's extraordinary interpersonal lattices. They'll pretend they're not marketing, but in reality will try to leverage personal networks for corporate gain.
Not quite the Relativity Quotient
The formula can be made simple and easy to follow. Bring content that is pulled from the business, data that will build the business - instead of data that detracts from it, or worse, demolishes it. Seal the brick and mortar with cementing compliance. Inhabit in comfort, security and well-ventilated environment of responsible communication.
A Slippery Slope
The acceptance and adoption of Web 2.0 (read social networking) tools does require a seismic shift in perspective from the decision makers in a corporation. This is because social networking tools pivot on the demolition of organizational boundaries and hierarchies, potentially leaving even the chief executive in an exposed cubicle instead of the metaphorical corner office.
What's in it for me? Empower the steward
Since it is the middle manager with her/his specific domain (read group) that is most likely to be threatened by this flouting of authority, it is precisely that person who must be made steward and stakeholder of the initiative. If such custodians of compliance can foster an atmosphere of cooperation where mistakes may be inevitably made, but easily corrected, social networking will be possible to safely introduce and productively enjoy - a collaboration environment that “practices the philosophy of making it easy to correct mistakes, rather than making it difficult to make them” as Jimmy Wales has said. In its implementation, social network architects must walk a fine line indeed.
The Facebooks and Twitters of the world foster networks that grow organically, in a free-wheeling spiral, potentially dismantling the imposed and relatively rigid structure of the enterprise network. Encryption issues aside, one doesn’t want to threaten the very identity of facebook behind the firewall by limiting and delimiting its use, till it becomes just one more collaboration tool hemmed in by compliance and code restrictions.
After all, it is the very protean fluidity and free form of social networks that make them what they are, convert them into enablers of enterprise-wide, global collaboration where compliant creativity knows no bounds.