I recently wrote about More IBM Research on Enterprise 2.0 – Activities and Other Tools. Here is even more. Four IBMers, Joan M. DiMicco, David R. Millen, Werner Geyer, Casey Dugan recently published, Research on the Use of Social Software in the Workplace. It focused on their Beehive social networking website behind IBM’s firewall. Beehive was launched in 2007 by IBM Research as “an internal social network site for IBM employees designed to blur the boundaries of work and home, professional and personal, and business and fun.” I briefly mentioned BeeHive as part of Looking Closely at Lotus Connections. At the time I wrote that the Beehive tools are exploring how to use Facebook features like fun walls, photo posting, and high 5’s inside the enterprise.
IBM Research is looking at four main areas: understanding adoption, usage patterns, motivations, and impact. This position paper gives a brief overview of the key findings from last two: motivations and impact on the workplace. The found that within a company intranet’s protected environment, employees choose to reach out on Beehive to new people rather than only connecting to those they know, which is different than behavior reported on Facebook. Now I have seen a lot of reaching out to new people who have connections to known people on Facebook but still, this is interesting. They also found that employees also share personal details that have not appeared with any significant frequency within IBM on other enterprise social software tools, such as intranet social bookmarking and blogging.
Looking further through in-depth interview they found three motivations: interacting with colleagues on a personal level, career advancement, and the ability to convince others to support ideas and projects. They wrote that, “employees use Beehive to present themselves professionally and to network with those they believe can assist them in their career goals within IBM.” Being part of large consulting organization in a past life, I can understand the internal marketplace dynamics that this system plays into. Social media is often used for viral marketing in the external marketplaces so it is not surprising that people would make use of its capabilities in a large organization with an active marketplace for people, ideas, and projects.
The researchers also looked at impact. They found that the more intensely someone uses Beehive (as measured by more frequent visits and stronger associations with the online community) the higher their reported social capital, across all measures. In other words, “they have closer bonds to their network, they have a greater willingness to contribute to the company, they have a greater interest in connecting globally, have greater access to new people, and a greater ability to access expertise.”
They said these results are only at the correlational level and they cannot make any casual inferences. However, I do think they are looking at some interesting ways to measure the effects of social software, independent of the effects of this particular software. In addition, I think that an interesting next step would be to look at the relationship of these measures to the bottom line business results. The IBM researchers at looking at sound level three behavioral changes. Now me needed to see if there are ways we can tie these behaviors to level four financial impacts. I feel confident that this can be done. Thanks to Tomoaki Swada for pointing out this work to me.