The Value of Social in the Enterprise

By Christian Buckley posted 11-14-2011 13:00


It's easy to get caught up in the movement toward social applications for the enterprise. End users are driving it. They expect it. So much about the way that we connect, the way we interact with our friends and family, as well as with our co-workers, now includes some level of social tool interaction. We share photos through Flickr and Facebook. We create formal and informal groups and networks for ride sharing, for child care, and our various hobbies. We publish data that we read and share links and news and videos that we think are interesting, important, and funny. Social tools are becoming part of our daily lives.


Within the enterprise, the hard part is defining which tools will help your team to be more productive. Tools that are successful as a consumer experience do not equal success in the enterprise. As I present on social technology topics, I love to ask the question 'What is your social computing strategy?' Very few hands go up to answer, because few companies have through this far ahead. Sadly, many companies are foraging ahead with very few ideas about what they are trying to accomplish -- they just know they "need" social. Or their employees are demanding it. But there are some things to consider before spending time and money (even if the tool is free, there is cost):


Cultural fit for social

Is your organization even ready for social? IT may be gung ho about rolling out a new tool, but stop and look at how people are doing their work today. Are your people using consumer-based technologies (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) for activities that "should" be secure and behind the firewall in the absence of something with official support?


Process fit

How do people do their jobs today, and will these new technologies disrupt the flow? For some people, a simple workflow capability and document libraries are all they need to collaborate. Adding more whiz bang technology may just add noise and distract from the work at hand. It's important to look beyond the latest, greatest features and think about the end user experience, and whether these tools will actually fit into the reality of how people work.


Incremental value

How you measure social tools can be difficult, but figuring out how they can reduce cycle time, increase mean time to resolution of issues, and other critical measurements can be very powerful in selling the power of social to your management.


Exponential value creation

Some social solutions may not be a cultural fit, and they may disrupt the flow of business-as-usual, but sometimes that's what you're looking for -- a game changer. Giving your teams real-time communications tools, methods for sharing, editing, linking, liking, tagging, and talking about each other's content might be revolutionary, and completely turn your existing processes on their head. Just know what you're doing, understand the impacts and the value proposition, and have a plan to move from your current state to the future state.


I'm all for change -- as long as that change has a plan attached. Some business value is qualitative and difficult to measure, but it's important to try.  

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