Yesterday i attended a very interesting demo of some enterprise social networking software, the company who provided the demo is called blue kiwi. It was very slick, offered some very simple but effective functionality and works well with Sharepoint which is useful as we are going to be moving in that direction in the very near future. BUT and i don’t like “buts”, it does create a problem for itself, by using the word “social”. I believe that there is a huge task ahead in terms of culture change to get the view that social networking is not something that was invented, it has been around since man/woman first grouped together, we are simply making it easier with technology.
I came to a conclusion that fundamentally corporate intranets should be exactly that – corporate social networks. After all how much work gets done through social interaction, if you can provide a better, simpler and clearer mechanism to enable this to happen across a whole organisation then you (i believe) can increase productivity.
A few years ago my council created a programme document for the development of our corporate intranet, which was only taken to the first implementation phase (move into a Content Management System). It also contained some great context information about the non cash-able savings around reducing time staff spend searching for and asking questions which are common or repeat questions.
There are tools which do support this kind of function, knowledge bases, FAQ’s etc, but none of them offer or provide the social conversations that support them. BUT this document was created only a little while after social networks were created on the wider Internet so no real attention was paid to them as offering business benefits or business functionality. There is still some debate about how social networking sites can really support business and in particular local government but for me the web has changed so much and so quickly that the wealth of information itself makes people want to share, create more and engage in conversations with people they were never able to speak to before the social web existed.
It does seem to me that social networking in a corporate environment makes so much sense that it in fact scares poeple to accept that it is a critical business tool.
I believe would could learn so much, just by dipping our toes in and piloting some tools. I believe that by connecting people in this kind of way, innovation, ideas and progress happens faster and more fluid.
I shall continue to raise awareness in this area within my council and will support any moves to pilot such approaches. I can try and influence further by including this explicit functionality as part of a intranet strategy as well as linking to the devon online concept which enables us to start conversations with the public. That i believe will truely spark real business transformation.