I attended the Mike Gotta session on Enterprise Social Networking at the Boston Enterprise 2.0 conference. I have been following Mike’s Collaborative Thinking blog for some time as I was pleased to be able to see him in person for the first time to hear him talk about adoption issues. Mike said he is going to provide information from actual cases from project teams that he has interviewed. I am doing these notes real time so please forgive any typos and missing words.
There is a history of software and communities. Many tools have come and gone since the 80s. So what is new? The consumer Web tools helped to great more awareness. Now we have evolved from social networking sites to services to platforms. They are no set answers yet. Platforms for the enterprise can use profiles, social graphs, relationship controls (for people and admin), social presence, participation tools, and application services.
He showed an example of a social network site from Booz Allen that they built themselves. It showed the total social context of an individual within the organization.
Mike offered a graph of the market space. The domain specific vendors include: Jive, Telligent, Newsgator and others. The three platform vendors include IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle. He also showed transformational vendors (Facebook, Twitter, Google and others) and emerging vendors (Drupal, Cubetree and others). He moved to another slide before I could get the rest.
Mike related a field study he conducted. Interviewed 21 organizations, interviewed 65 people, got 45 hours of conversation, and looked at 1,700 data points. Rather than guide the conversation with a lot of questions, he set a framework and let people talk and tell their stories. Good idea.
Mike made a good point up front. It is all abut adoption not deployment. Major findings include the fact that everyone thought they were behind, even if they were not. Everyone is at the starting point. Few organizations have made a organization-wide decision on social networking. They are still trying to figure it out. Even organizations that have a strategic vision are in the proof-of concept stage. It is not about the tools that is the critical factors. It is overcoming the cultural issues. Social networks do enable more adaptive organizations. This make intuitive sense so it is nice to see some validation.
They found three approaches – people to people, people to work, and people to organization but its work best when these three integrate. They found two main gaps. People have not focused on social network and identity and search was not considered. This was surprising to Mike. He feels that their should be a lot of synergy between social networking and search strategy.
One of the first issues that project teams faced was properly identifying what social networking means for the enterprise. There is a lot of confusion here. Analogies to the consumer web such as Facebook were often not successful, as people did not want Facebook in the enterprise. Most teams ended up with the term collaboration and not anything social. This is exactly consistent with Dion Hinchcliffe in the morning session. I certainly agree with both of them
Found innovation best from bottom up from people closest to the work. So give them a voice and a way to collaborate. I found this over and over again in the old knowledge management days. In those days you needed to do anthropology on the jobs to uncover best practices.
Mike he found other issues such as the above and that these are not new issues. What did I just say? Shifting generations play several roles in adoption. Need to be able to appeal to all generations and allow for greater integration across generations. Older workers can be social networking leaders to share their expertise and provide status to them for retention. Also look for emerging experience that is developing in the younger workers. A culture of participation will identify good skills in ways that might not come out otherwise.
Social networks are also ways for people to organize and create their own training to meet their individual needs. Informal learning can complement formal learning. Also, social networking is great for on-boarding. They offer the back channel for what is really going on and who to interact with.
The business side often has pain points but do not link them to a business requirement when they talk with IT. They also sometimes come to IT with a tool request not linked with a business requirement. In both cases IT needs to not dismiss but explore to uncover real business requirement. It is usually there if you ask questions.
There was a lot of debate on ROI. It was hard to make very concrete. There is no agreement here. Some people said it was the wrong question and others said it was important. It is essential infrastructure or can it be an intervention with a concrete ROI linked to work process improvement. Often ROI was found after deployment but hard to predict specifics. Most pilots did find business value once they started.
Some project teams worked behind the scenes to get supporters in decision roles, often younger people. Others went out to get support form the field. Stories can be the best ROI, especially for potential of approach to get pilots going. Gaining approval and ROI is more art than science. I would agree here. This is brining back early days of knowledge management when it was all fresh. Again, I think this similarity just validates the issues.
Mike next addressed the issue of how to balance business and culture or how to defeat the enemy within. Organizational structures cam impede social networking. Middle management can be threatened and try to sabotage efforts. They were used to controlling what went up the reporting chain. Now the lower level employees can talk directly to senior management. The top and bottom of the organization liked this but the middle did not. Managers would tell workers to not put stuff in a blog but send to them in email.
Sometimes there are social caste systems. People at high levels do not talk with people in junior levels. This can carry over to social software. Workers feel senior management would “never take an idea from me.” This is a red flag that the culture can be a barrier. Another company that had a good culture and questions and suggestions were answered quickly. They made over $500k in savings from the system.
There is no clear answer as to whether you must change culture first before implementing social networks or you can use social networks to change culture. Regardless you must address the cultural issues in the implementation. Culture can trump almost everything. Trust is important here. One guy said he did not want to fill out his profile because it would make it easier to find him and lay him off. How do you cross culture boundaries in social software that are not crossed in person on the job? This needs to be figured out.
There was mixed opinion on whether to bring legal, HR, and security into the project pre or post pilot. There was agreement that they need to get involved. Pre-pilot course would say that you know what to avoid. Post would say that you do not yet know what you need to get by-in for.
Other issues that came up include the role of social business activity in annual reviews. There were all sides on this. Do not want to drive gaming the system but you also want to recognize good corporate citizen behavior. Also, what about consequences for negative behavior? Should people be concerned about career limiting moments? There needs to be policies on this so issues are clear. Some companies have terms of service before you start to use the social networking site. I think this could be okay but only if what really happens. I had something similar on an email system with a past employer but everyone ignored it. It said you cold only use it for business uses but everyone used it for personal uses. Finally, the company recognized the folly of their requirement and removed it. If you get too controlling no one will come.
I had to duck out a bit early so welcome anyone filling in what I missed. I liked the fact that this session came from actual research with real stories and was not simply platitudes. It was also better as stories than stats.