Enterprise social networking is the buzz topic in technology circles. The evolution of functions and features that people have been using to communicate for their own benefit are now being brought in to solve business problems. But is Enterprise Social Networking a load of hot air generated by the industry to sell services? Or a technology that big business need to sit up and take notice of?
International SharePoint Consultancy Brightstarr, with extensive experience in this area has conducted a survey of IT professionals to understand what is hot tech and what is hot air when it comes to Enterprise Social Networking.
What is Enterprise Social Networking Anyway?
In businesses that rely on knowledge there is a problem with there being so much digital information now that knowledge does not get passed between people effectively, and this means the business loses out commercially. The problem of growing digital information isn’t new; solutions such as Intranets have been working to tackle this for some time. Enterprise Social Networks are a new tool in the kit, which comes at the problem from a different angle.
Rather than formal, top-down organization of information, these tools allow the employees to organize themselves and communicate in less formal, more flexible means. Like systems such as Facebook & LinkedIn, employees create profiles and list details about themselves, this then makes it easier for other employees to find them by skill or responsibility, or business unit. Connections are made between people with them starting interest/project groups, and conversations over messaging functionality, allowing peers to communicate in the same way they would in person.
The technology empowers employees to make their own connections and work in a collaborative way that suits them better and is more in tune with today’s digital lifestyle. It can reduce the burden caused by email and eliminate blocks to getting the knowledge they need by allowing them to go and get it for themselves.
What do IT professionals make of the technology?
In BrightStarr’s recent survey 93% of respondents included ‘Improved knowledge transfer between geographically disparate employees’ and ‘Increase knowledge transfer within the organisation’ as the primary drivers for the technology. What was also significant was the desire to increase innovation in these businesses using this technology (70%). Companies in today’s knowledge economy are seeing innovation as a way of driving and maintaining competitive advantage. The other side of the coin here is that companies that don’t implement enterprise social media could find themselves at a disadvantage if their innovation is muted.
What IT professionals are looking for from these enterprise social technologies is to empower employees to find and work smarter with each other, and see themselves as part of one larger organization, rather than just a smaller business unit within it. Both ‘Helping find people by skillset & name’ and ‘Breakdown barriers between organizational units’ were drivers for over 60% of IT professionals surveyed.
Who’s Got Enterprise Social Networking?
With strong acknowledgement of benefits of enterprise social networking you might expect companies to already be well underway with plans to implement enterprise social, however the survey found that less than 10% had already implemented some kind of solution, with only a further 22.5% having a definitive plan. This leaves a huge 66.5% of enterprises surveyed with no solution and no plan either.
What’s stopping enterprise social networking?
It seems that the two biggest blocks to enterprise social networking are coming from concerns about privacy and governance and the management’s attitude to social networking. Will Saville, CEO of BrightStarr explained that both of these objections can be overcome with education.
“Privacy and governance issues with open, user-empowering technologies like enterprise social are a concern for management, but in reality they can be easily overcome with putting sensible precautions and a solid governance plan in place. We find that news stories about public social media misuse can unfairly bias thinking about enterprise social media. Once our consultants have explained appropriate governance the objections disappear.”
There are however financial constraints on businesses implementing these systems. The IT professionals survey showed that 35% had budget restrictions stopping their internal social networking implementation and 40% were struggling to develop models to show ROI from the technology. With businesses still under cost pressures after recent tough economic times the predominantly qualitative benefits of enterprise social media are difficult to formulate into a quantitative financial justification. What price can you put on being able to develop a relationship with a colleague that generates a new product idea, or being able to find the right people to form a team to solve a problem? It may be that we have to wait a few years to see how the stock of the early adopters of the technology perform compared to their laggard peers, but even then will the cause and effect be clear?
More Sociable Enterprises in Future
It seems that even with the problems and objections to implementing the new technology the survey of IT professionals shows an overwhelming tide of businesses pushing to implement Enterprise Social Networking. What this is going to mean in the future is that the typical knowledge worker is going to need to get more and more ‘social’ to do their job. If you want to know more about Enterprise Social Networking BrightStarr have a specific whitepaper that can be downloaded from free from their website which includes more detailed insights into the technology.