Enterprise social networks – Facebook inside the Firewall

As increasing numbers of businesses consider whether (and how) to apply social networks across their enterprise – how to take the best bits of Facebook and Google+ behind the firewall – and whether to use off-the-shelf (e.g. Yammer), customisable (Jive) or bespoke (e.g. IBM/Lotus) platforms to deliver it, this deckfrom Altimeter’s Charlene Li summarises some of the key objetives, and outcomes as noted by the relative early adopters in this space. All of the businesses interviewed have 250+ employees, but some of the conclusions are drawn from a sample of only 40 or so – so illustrative at this stage rather than definitive. Having said that – there are clear themes emerging from the US-based research:

  • The key objectives cited are: sharing of best practice/increased collaboration, followed by ‘supporting a transformation of the business/evolving the company culture‘ (my italics – I’m increasingly interested in link between culture and tools, and also business architecture)
  • Over half of those surveyed deployed an enterprise social network across the whole business, rather than across specific departments from day 1
  • While most respondents can claim better and faster collaboration, significant use and adoption, relatively few are (yet) seeing this translate into hitting business goals

The deck (indeed Charlene’s blog and books) are well worth reading…

Social business and serendipity – a match made in heaven

Newcomers to the concept of social business get hung up on the technologies, the shiny new toys that IBM, Jive or Yammer let people play with.

But what makes businesses social is not the technologies, it’s the culture. Which the technologies can amplify.

I’ve just finished reading the excellent Steve Jobs biog. One of the things which struck me about how he set up Apple was the architecture of the buildings he created for the company. Architecture actively designed to encourage people to bump into eachother.

Simply to use a toilet some people had to take a 10 minute walk – explicitly because Jobs recognised the benefits of serendipity. Yes there was secrecy involved in product development, but the company was structured so that people working on different things would bump into eachother in massive public spaces. So that random conversations might lead to cross-team collaboration.

All of which fitted neatly into the extremely iterative processes he liked. And which clearly worked.

Yes, there are new technologies now which make it easier for people to ‘bump into eachother’ online. And any number of companies are adopting social business technologies, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that people like dealing with other people – not with departments and structures.

Social business is all about helping to make that happen. About encouraging serendipitous encounters. And about giving people (or in Apple’s case forcing people) to spend time away from the top of their to-do list, just to see what might happen.



Social business – a definition

IBM recently published one of their ‘redbooks’ in which they describe social business as “a game-changer for small, medium and large businesses” (not afraid of hedging their bets are they?)

Anyway, they’re right.

Social technologies are transforming the way that people communicate with each other. And they’re also now starting to transform the way that organisations communicate with customers, and colleagues.

In amongst all the various definitions of social business, IBM have a pretty good idea of what they’re talking about…

IBM® defines Social Business as a business that embraces networks of people to create business value. Social businesses embrace technology to enhance relationships between employees, customers, and partners. They augment business processes and applications with social interactions and insight. They provide integrated activities that use business data and social data. Social businesses more fully integrate the collective knowledge of people-centric networks to accelerate decision making, strengthen business processes, and increase innovation that matters.

Every business needs to build and nurture relationships in order to retain and grow its customer base. These relationships are built by providing quality products and services and by giving customers a way to offer feedback and share ideas about improving products and services. By enhancing these relationships, social businesses achieve the following benefits:

  • Ideas that improve products and services
  • Increased loyalty throughout the ecosystem
  • Excitement that spills over into a broader network of people

Enhancing relationships with customers is only half of the story. To make a profit, a business needs an efficient work environment and an effective work force. Business processes drive the work environment. Special situations, custom requests, and exceptions can slow processes. Businesses need a way to get the right individuals (knowledgeable workers and experts) working together where ever they are as quickly as possible to keep their operation running smoothly.

A number of other definitions abound – but this is the one we’re happy to go with for now…