May 10, 2010

Social Media within the Organization

Geetaj from The CTO Forum recently interviewed me on the challenges and benefits of using social technologies within the organization and Enterprise 2.0

You can read the interview here.

My fundamental belief is summarised in this statement:

The challenge is that the technology needs to become embedded in the business processes. If ERP was all about business processes, Enterprise 2.0 has to do with business relationships.

Some exceprts

Q:What is the biggest challenge in making people use social media tools?

A: The challenge is that the technology needs to become embedded in the business processes. If ERP was all about business processes, Enterprise 2.0 has to do with business relationships. There are currently lots of tools for managing the relationships within the enterprise and also for building relations with customers. There are CRM systems and e-mails. These systems are not giving anybody any pain. Nonetheless, they are frustrating at times in the etiquettes they employ and the way they are structured. Also, the vendors have not been able to showcase how these things will be able to ease some pain that currently the business relationships have.

Q:Are you saying that Enterprise 2.0 does not have a strong enough value proposition?

A: I would say that it is not championed well. It is not being sold well. This is because the organisations that make these tools mostly focus on the US market. I haven’t heard of any organisation that is really trying to market it here. There are organisations like Cynapse which has, which is open source. Organisations can deploy it on their own servers or buy it as a service.

Vendors also believe that Europe is a great market for them. They are also concentrating on the product itself. There are very few consulting organisations for this.

There are organisations who are using tools like Yammer and it does not require the CIO’s mandate to be deployed because it is on the cloud. Tools like Yammer will be used by certain groups in the organisation. For instance, the sales and marketing could be using it without the others knowing about it. The CTO may not realise this. So employees may be using Yammer and Twitter for business purposes.

Q:What are the benefits?

A: I would like to see it as a spectrum. One of the parts simply has to do with connecting people. In a large distributed organisation or a smallish from that is distributed, it is important to know one’s colleagues. That is the corporate social networking part. It becomes an employee engagement and communications aspect. This is like Facebook for the enterprise.

The other end of the spectrum is the collaboration part, where knowledge is the centre. I may have a document that I have worked on and I put it out there, fve people add stuff to it. The collaboration results in a document that undergoes constant versioning instead of an email that goes round and round. It is like Wikipedia in the enterprise.

Tools like Social Text combine these two aspects. It is like a participative intranet. This is like an additional layer on top of the intranet.

The best part is that the language here is not too different. It is something that people are used to on Facebook, Twitter or Orkut.

So, you may not have a choice in co-workers, but you may be able to discover people who share the same interest. It is an additional way to connect you to the organisation.

Q:Is there any way the organisation can get monetary benefts by using tools like Socialtext and

A: One of Social Text’s testimonials include a a CTO of a financial from who says that earlier their employees spent, at an average, a day in a week searching for information. Before using the social networking tools, they had to rely on a taxonomy-based system that the servers used for searching. The social networking tools use tags, and thus are faster to search with.

This CTO was able to cut this time down from a day a week to two hours a week. Thus, saving them close to $5 million in a year.

And, as more people get on to it, more knowledge gets into the system. Thus, while saving money the organisation is also able to save all that knowledge that could have been lost.

Q:What are the things to remember while deploying these tools?

A: The key thing is that it should be embedded into the business process and people should not see it as a separate task, above their regular work.

You never know what will click in an organisation. There is a steel organisation where professionals with more than 20 years of experience working in a brick and mortar company suddenly took to microblogging. It happened because it takes less time to use and learn. They did not take on to the bigger tools that allowed them to upload fle, because it was diffcult to include in the day-to-day working.

This example shows that if companies can get their employees to use one functionality it is easier to get them to start using other facets of the tool.

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