Enterprise 2.0 – Beam me up Scotty!

So in the last few posts we have looked at (primarily) externally facing social media tools that businesses can use. Now I would like to explore internal social media platforms, that is software that is behind the corporate firewall. As we journey through these internal applications I will relate them back to the 4Cs that Niall Cook describes in his book ‘Enterprise 2.0‘ – Communication, Connection, Cooperation and Collaboration. Before we begin though, I came across an interesting pyramid description of  social media and Enterprise 2.0 in a book called ‘The Executives Guide to Enterprise Social Media Strategy“:

Social networking: Humans sharing knowledge with other humans outside of their immediate pair-bond families

Social computing: Systems of hardware, software and firmware that enable social networking in a digital environment

Social media: Platforms specifically designed to make social computing available to anyone with a device capable of connecting to the Internet

Enterprise 2.0: A term coined by Andrew McAfee, a professor at the Harvard School of Business, to describe the impact of social networking, social computing, and social media on business organisations

For me this really highlights how the underlying process of humans communicating is still there in the digital age, only now it is done over the medium of the Internet.

In this post we will focus on the category of ‘Communication’. On Cooks technology framework communication software sits in the lower left quadrant – low interaction and low formality. Platforms such as social presence, blogs, Instant Messaging (IM), virtual worlds and discussion forums all sit here. So what value can these different software platforms add? There are as many answers as there are organisations. For some social presence or the ability to see if your colleagues are free or busy will add no value at all, for others it will be a game-changer. Same applies to blogs, to IM, to forums and virtual worlds.

In a previous post I commented on Virtual Worlds and their application in business so I will not re-hash it here. In my opinion, the key platforms are blogs and discussion forums for the majority of organisations and can offer the biggest bang for your buck. Social presence and IM is useful if you operate in a business with multiple offices and/or across time zones as it can be a real time-saver (who hasn’t played phone tag with a colleague!)

Lets start by looking at blogs.  Simply put, a blog is, well this. It is an online log of thoughts, ideas and suggestions. You are reading my blog because (hopefully) you are interested in what I have to say and have the opportunity to comment on it. In an enterprise setting it means I can communicate with those that are interested, and those that aren’t interested are not spammed. It also allows two-way conversations to take place based on the message/s being sent. To give a real-world example the company I work for has a fortnightly internal email newsletter that is sent to around 900 staff. It is created by one person (the Communications Manager) and has brief articles about things that have been happening in the business. Starting last week there is now a CEO’s report section where he gives a top-level view of what he has been up to over the past couple of weeks. This is all good stuff but I wonder if more value can be added by allowing two-way communication about some of the points he raised. If it were a blog posting instead of a static email message then staff would at least have an opportunity to contribute directly and interact on another level with both him and other colleagues.

Forums are similar to blogs insofar as they actively promote users to comment on and discuss the topic at hand. It creates a virtual water cooler if you like, a place where people can do what people to best, communicate. The key difference being on a forum a single point of view or discussion topic is raised by anyone and the ensuing dialog is generally about that alone. This from Wikipedia A discussion forum is hierarchical or tree-like in structure: a forum can contain a number of subforums, each of which may have several topics. Within a forum’s topic, each new discussion started is called a thread, and can be replied to by as many people as so wish.

So which is the better tool in the Enterprise? The answer is which ever suits your needs best. Probably both maybe? Has anyone had first-hand experience in a business environment with either or both and would like to share those experiences? Drop me a note below, love to hear your experiences. And as always, if you like this post, please take a quick moment to share it with your network.

5 Responses to Enterprise 2.0 – Beam me up Scotty!

  1. meretehole says:

    I read this post because I’m exploring the extend of web 2.0 applications and try to recognize the use of the 8 patterns Tim O’Reilly presented in 2005. This has also given me an interest in Enterprise 2.0. I’ve read and tried different knowledge management tools, but my experience is that they are not used too often, and people forget that it’s there. Sometimes it’s easier to just start from scratch, and get the knowledge as you go. That’s too bad, since so many enterprises already have a great deal of experience. A web 2.0 tool as a substitute for traditional KM, sounds like a step in the right direction, but I see it as a huge challenge to get people to use it and participate. How do you reckon that should be done?

    • Hi and thanks for your comments.
      Getting users to adopt any new technology is hard enough, let alone something that has a lot of myth and snake oil around it. A lot of what I have read, and a method that I have personally used is to find the users in the business that are engaged and wanting to adopt something new. I am often surprised about where these people are, they are not always the ones you would expect and they are the internal cheerleaders for the project. In one of my earlier posts I referred to Linda Coles book and the concept of finding cheerleaders – I was using it in relation to external customers in that post but it is equally as valid in my opinion to internal customers too. It is also important to get buy-in from across the business, not just the guys at the top. Often implementations fail because it is seen as ‘just another management fad’ or ‘more work from IT’.
      One other comment would be to give employees the ‘WIIFM’ pitch, or ‘Whats In It For Me’ – if they can see it will make their lives easier they will leap on board faster. Putting in any Enterprise 2.0 platform is potentially a long process, depending on the employee mix it could take a few weeks or a few months or even longer. The key will be to stay the path, keep chipping away at it, promote the initiative as much as possible and people will turn on to it (voice of experience here!)

      • meretehole says:

        Nice! A lot of good thoughts. I really enjoyed the part of finding cheerleaders. I’ll look into that later.
        The key is, like you say, to stay the path, but that’s one of the hardest parts. There are so many examples of businesses failing to stay by the change. I believe a lot of people forget the inertia large groups got just from the size. There will always be resistant people. So when you get the eager ones, and the followers onboard. How to get the more reluctant to join?

  2. Pingback: Someday we’ll find it, the corporate connection… the workers, the dreamers and me. « Kiwi IT Geek

  3. Pingback: Cooperation makes it happen « Kiwi IT Geek

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