13 thoughts on “Enterprise Social Software in the Public Sector

  1. I listened to this hoping to be inspired, how disappointed I was. Where’s the business drivers? Where’s the savings? How are you going to keep records? What’s the point? Technology for technologies sake.

    If I open up a social networking site internally there will be an explosion of network activity and before the end of the week email use will be halved and everyone will be using instant messaging to make decisions, without any record of what they have done. How can you keep any measure of control over what you do? There has to be some value in social networking, but until you have looked at the consequences of letting the genie out of the bottle you should keep the stopper in.

    MOSS will give you socila networking lite, this may help as a start, but this just looks like a solution struggling to find the problem.

    1. It is a shame that you were not inspired or took anything of value from this post, however I think you have missed the point. We have been fortunate to be able to pilot something to answer the very questions you pose.

      I don’t agree with you in that decisions will be made by instant messaging, in fact our experience with the pilot so far has confirmed that email usage has shifted towards a more formal agreement and we have removed the “conversations” which cluttered up email and made finding information which became part of FOI requests harder to surface.

      We first need to understand how this technology is used internally to better inform future decisions about whether we adopt a full blown enterprise social software platform or as you suggest a “lite” version. I don’t believe MOSS does social networking. It does forms of collaboration but social networking is different and therefore requires understanding within a business context.

      We are not struggling to find problems for this solution at all, we are in fact struggling to manage the expectation that a pilot creates. I do however accept that we need to understand how this fits within the wider ICT architecture as well as the information architecture. This will be done to some degree within the pilot’s lessons learns report.

      What i think you may have missed or appreciated in my post is that what we are doing is trying to understand the business issues in advance and working through these. Instead of giving the business a set of technologies and just letting them get on with it. If we don’t work through the process we will never be in a position to allow the business to understand and realise the benefits and release the efficiencies that can be gained.

      You are probably right that having such a tool will increase network activity, but why is this a bad thing? In the current climate, having access to your staffs knowledge and ideas will become even more crucial as organisations seeks to understand how improvements can be made. After all staff talk and exchange information all the time, but that is restricted to either 1-1 email conversations or face to face conversations in corridors or over lunch. By having a tool which can surface these ideas and conversations to everyone, raises the odds of ideas developing faster and increases their likelihood of adoption and or success.

      The business drivers that we are trying to solve are listed in the post itself, albeit not explicity categorised as business drivers, more as opportunities – after all this is a learning experience. However i’ll repeat some of them in this context:

      Business Drivers:
      Internal Collaboration and Networking
      Staff and People finder (by skills, by experience etc)
      Internal ideas and innovation
      Internal communications and staff engagement

      If you wish to discuss this further please do not hesitate to let me know and i can let you have my email and contact details.

  2. In addition to the above, i have just come across this research by Jakob Nielsen’s posted in Alertbox on August 3, 2009:

    Social Networking on Intranets

    It comes to much the same conclusions as we have here, plus it also recognises the potential. We have only dipped our toe into the water and we have experienced the scale of some fo the issues the alertbox post highlights

  3. Carl

    Whatever value gained you from Social Networking didn’t come out in the video. I have no problem with “web 2.0” and “enterprise 2.0” in fact in my present trade people talk a lot about “RM 2.0”. Time moves on, we have to embrace the new technology, but in business context what is it for, what’s the benefit and can we control it? In my profession this means can we get good records out of it that support the business functions and allow us to be compliant with the relevant legislation, e.g. DP foi etc. The answer is of course that most organisations can’t cope with email so how do we expect them to cope with “web 2.0”

    We dip our toe in social networking where there is a purpose. I read my CEO’s blog and I post on my internal (infernal?) message boards, which were particularly useful during local government reorganisation, but is there a wider use in a business context?

    As for the research, Social networking expert finds that social networking is a good thing, some surprise there.

  4. The video was a snapshot based around specific aspects of the pilot. It doesn’t truly represent the whole experience by a long way.

    In terms of Records Management – I don’t think the sort of things that would be declared as records have any place in social networking platforms. Although I guess that there may be discussions that lead to the production of records – so that is facilitation rather than a barrier in my view.

    There is a closer alignment with document management – and we would probably need a policy on when something should be put into a document management system. If it does turn out to be a record we have policies about what to do with it from there.

    You are right organisations can’t cope with email because it is inappropriately used. Using tools like this enable organisations to make better use of email and redefine what email is for, that way managing information better.

    1. Carl

      I suppose in the end you make my point for me. If email is inappropriately used how can we expect the less formal instant messaging, blogging, twittering etc. to be used in a more appropriate way. This way lies chaos. Of course all of them are open to FOI/EIR, DP. How do I keep track of that?

  5. Just as ICT learns that it can no longer hold back the tide by blocking things that make its life more difficult – is IM taking over the King Canute mantle?

    These things are not going to go away – we have to learn how to deal with them. It is so much more difficult to keep track when they go underground.

  6. Sue

    I’m not suggesting we try and hold back the tide ( and incidently king Cnut (Danish spelling) gets a bad press on this as he was trying to prove to fauning courtiers that he couldn’t hold back the tide and he was right). What I am suggesting is that just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should do it.

    We should look at new developments, we should look at Social networking software, we should see how we can benefit from it. But where’s the business case? Can we make it work for our business and gain quantifiable benefits? Will it pay for itself? If it doesn’t is what it does worth it for other reasons? Could I gain similar benefits by doing other things?

    IM and RM as a comunity has been facing up to these issues over a long period after trying to pick up the corporate pieces of badly planned and badly thought out software installs. RM has been making ICT think. Email has been a nightmare, very few organisations have a real handle on producing good corporate records from email and it is very important in a highly regulated society to have these records.

    If some of the “web 2.0” software becomes useful it will come to the surface, if not it will whither and die. What worries me is that we will spend money on something that people like because it’s fun but has very little functional business application. At what point does me being able to send an instant message to colleague begin to benefit the customer who incidently remains king in all this.

    1. I think our pilot is doing exactly what you are recommending…giving us the chance to look at it and see if we can benefit from it. If it hadnt ‘come to the surface’ I dont think we’d be doing it.

      We had ideas of what the benefits might be – and even so – were amazed at the obvious reduction in email (for example). In terms of RM it seems much easier to manage something that is open and transparent in an enterprise social media product – that is eminently searchable and where nothing can be done anonymously – than when it is lurking at the bottom of a few inboxes.

      Isnt educating the workforce the answer to a lot of these difficulties? I think they are generally aware of the problems – but dont necessarily know there is something that can be done about them.

      I find being able to instant message a colleague – knowing that they are there because their icon is green – far more beneficial to the customer than emailing half a dozen people in the hope that someone that can help is around and can respond eventually.

  7. Sue

    I agree education is the key and something we ignore at our peril. sadly we do have a tendancy to give a minimal amount of training (at least in my council).

    I’m glad your pilot has drawn out the benefits of whatever “web 2.0” applications you are using and would be interested to see what they are and how you measured them. In the case of a green icon it only means someones computer is on, personally I would show my age and ring them, far better than emailing and in many ways better than looking for the icon, at least someone else in the team could tell you where they were.

    As for the email and social media product. Well now you have two things to manage. Any pressure you have taken off of the email servers you have simply put elsewhere and I’m not sure that logs make good records.

  8. I think you will find the green icon is a little more sophisticated than that…mine regularly tells people I am ‘idle’.

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