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Eric Openshaw, John Hagel, and John Seely Brown have an interesting article up on Dupress; it espouses the value of social media as a tool to utilize communication channels throughout an enterprise to both enhance the value of internal analytics and drive business outcomes. This is a fairly involved read, but if you have a few minutes I highly recommend checking it out here.

…So the paper itself does a fairly good job of laying out the business case for investing into social. It shows that when a large percentage of an organization’s employee population actively participates in local social network(s), the data they create often allows the firm to conduct promising analyses which may ultimately be leveraged to drive organizational performance. Social communities can also serve as repositories for data that colleagues can reference to troubleshoot recurring problems which may have come up in the past. As an example:

…Sales associates at Avaya, the provider of business collaboration and communications software and services, use Socialcast microblogs to tap into what their peers are saying. A sales associate who encounters an exception can search conversations on Socialcast to see if anyone else has dealt with a similar situation. This easy access to institutional memory saves time. If the associate does not find a discussion about a similar exception, he or she can post a question to the group, eliminating the time-consuming process of identifying the right person or e-mailing a massive list-serve and receiving redundant responses.

In theory, I love the idea of leveraging enterprise social data to both identify casual relationships that drive performance and increase the net efficiency of teams by providing a community resource that individual contributors can use when facing down difficult problems. Conversely, another part of me says that in some cases practical application here isn’t always plausible. 

The article cites implementation success stories like cloud infrastructure provider VMWare; the company successfully scaled participation on their social channel via targeted engagement initiatives, increasing engagement from 73% to 95% over 9 months. This is really impressive, but I wonder how much the demographic of the workforce played into the firm’s ability to successfully grow engagement here. To this point, when it comes to adopting social technology internally, don’t workforce demographics have to impact the implementation strategy? I’m not sure. But having been part of engagement efforts for such communities before, I’ve found the process of increasing participation to be more art than science.

Has your company ever rolled out an internal social platform? If so, how did its leaders generate buy-in (and if they didn’t what are some of the reasons they weren’t successful)?

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.