Many IT departments feel pressured to deliver Facebook-style collaboration to the enterprise. Yet the number one problem facing CIOs who have already invested in social networking is getting a meaningful level of employee adoption. A recent survey conducted by InformationWeek indicates that only 10% of respondents consider their internal social networking initiatives a great success. Why aren’t employees logging on and contributing to their work social networks?
In most instances social networking in the enterprise has been championed by marketing, in some cases lead by IT, while very few enterprises have taken a cross company coordinated approach to social networking. Perhaps that does not surprise may people because the usage of social media is quickly becoming part of the marketing portfolio of many progressive marketing departments. Social media has added a new low cost dimension to customer communications but we must understand that internal enterprise collaboration may or may not follow the same routes as customer collaboration.
Enterprise social networking applications offer many of the features of consumer social systems such as Facebook, but with more oversight and control, and they come with analytics features to measure adoption and levels of use. It is thought that Microsoft SharePoint leads the pack when it comes to enterprise social networking systems followed by Google Sites and IBM Lotus. Clearly any successful enterprise social networking suite will have to sport an extremely user friendly interface, some level of integration with business systems, multiple communications systems in addition to excellent security and scalability. Research confirms that the most used functions of enterprise social networking are the online directory with Facebook-style profiles, team or company wikis, company discussion forums, online chat and internal blogs.
Social networking aims to provide value to the enterprise in three ways. First, they can bridge geographical and organizational information divides by moving conversations into shared spaces such as blogs and wikis. This way, information becomes sharable and searchable enabling communities of common interests to form around subject matter rather than organizational hierarchies. Secondly, social applications provide enterprises with value by letting people add context to information which helps others identify what’s useful to them. And thirdly they help people find and connect to co-workers through user profiles and social maps that provide a visual of an employee’s connections with co-workers.
Having said all that, don’t expect any hard and fast social networking ROI calculators but make no mistake, the coming few years will see a complete rewiring of the enterprise and social media promises to be at the core of that change as long as we remember that social media in the enterprise isn’t about changing your status every morning or sharing photos of your last fishing trip! It is about gathering people around topics of interest, making it easier to enterprise content and getting business done faster through instant communications.
After all perhaps we should not be visualizing Facebook and Twitter when we think of social media in the enterprise, chances are Linkedin is a better example for what should be deployed within the enterprise although Linkedin does not seem to offer the all important instant communications tools essential for collaboration in the enterprise.
In the absence of any meaningful ROI calculators for social networking in the enterprise one should turn to benchmarking against best in class or looking at previous case studies. One example is the Collaboration Assessment Tool developed by IBM in conjunction with Aberdeen Group. Another example is the Collaboration Index Tool developed by Cisco.
But the question remains open, how do you secure the right level of adoption? Will an excellent tool implemented in a team effort with the various stakeholders and supported by good leadership from the top of the organization be sufficient to get employees to log on and collaborate?