Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Not your average water cooler conversation

Social networking across the enterprise - Part 1

Compare it to a holler across the cubicles or chit chat around the water cooler – the informality and ease of communicating is common to both. But it is the sinuous and subtle connects between content and the live, linked data across categories that make social networking a virtual mine of of untapped information for today's global enterprise.

Still, in this year of the great economic downturn, some companies are vehement in their resistance to the Twitters and MYSpaces of the world infiltrating the hallowed precincts of the corporate environment.

Even if they are suitably “attired” for a business climate, the penchant for colorful “profiles” and intriguing and frequent “Status updates” in the facebook foyer must be redressed with strait-laced rules of compliance and corporate etiquette. Predictably, “Most foul - for productivity!” is the general outcry from the executive office.

Still, There are those, like Research in Motion executive Jim Balsillie, who do believe that social networking tools power the enterprise through their content customization and facilitation of the free flow of ideas and information, and most importantly categorization through “groups” – as they are known with their tremendous capacity to cluster the minutest of special-interest topics into atoms of affinity for like-minded users.

Like fish to water ....others more amphibious
Those that thrive and survive on creative juices however, are embracing the warm, fuzzy, and often intellectually aromatic coffee-lounge characteristics of facebook to drive innovation and creative output in the corporate workplace. Case in point, media software, marketing and gaming companies. Let it not be said that more traditional technology companies (semiconductor, engineering) companies will lag in the social networking spiral. If corporate mandated IM tools can change the way business is done in IT and Design engineering divisions of certain advanced and microprocessor intensive semiconductor companies, can Facebook and Twitter be far behind?

Age of the open office
In a cloudy financial climate that increasingly calls for performance under pressure, is it time to lower those cube walls, open up the tinted windows, and let in the glare of Facebook - or Orkut - or whichever Web 2.0 ‘twittering’ tool is most apropos for your business needs and corporate culture. Research has shown that under favorable and defined conditions, social networking can hugely boost employee productivity and understandably so.

Numbers never lie
A pan-European survey of more than 2,500 people in five countries shows that the use of social networking tools as part of everyday working life has led to an increase in efficiency. The study shows that 65% of employees surveyed in Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands say their company has adopted social networking as part of their working culture. The research also reveals that the rate of adoption is most popular in Germany, leading the way at 72% while Great Britain lags behind with 59%.

Other than the cultural differentiator (and it has been proven that in the universal arts of chat, search, and social networking there are more similarities than differences across cultures and continents) there is no reason why the social networking phenomenon should not cause employee satisfaction and consequently, efficiency and output to soar.

In the global corporation with round-the-clock activity proliferating many time zones, ‘facebooking’ (the term newly synonymous with social networking), could well foster ongoing conversation even when one or the other branch office is asleep – thus driving the 24 hour enterprise and sky-rocketing productivity. What price jet fuel and air travel?!

Turn on Twitter.....first check the compliance code
A precarious see-saw of control and enablement will poise the ‘agile’ corporation to extract the maximum productivity benefit from a firm and flexible, structured and process-driven social networking arena that is energized and alive with compliant yet creative chaos.

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