Social Networking aka Collaboration ToolsThe March 23 issue of Information Week has an excellent article by Andrew Conry-Murray discussing the question, "Can Enterprise Social Networking Pay Off?"
Strictly speaking, this is a rhetorical query because, at this stage of the game, a wealth of reports has accumulated of companies that have realized valuable results from adding tools like blogs and wikis to their intranets. The real questions Conry-Murray addresses are "Under what circumstances does enterprise social networking pay off?" and "How can you gauge the size of the payoff?"
The whole article, including its sidebars, is worth reading. As an overview, here are the five best practices Conry-Murray recommends for making the most of social networking:
- Start with a low-cost pilot to see what tools deliver useful results.
- Set modest expectations. "Don't promise executives that enterprise social networking will unleash, ignite, or synergize anything." Instead: "Describe one or two general business improvements you think are achievable. Set reasonable goals for user adoption, and salt your initial deployment with a few teams that are eager for these kinds of tools. And keep an eye out for ways to measure business value. You may not be expected to produce hard numbers from a pilot, but corporate management will want to know the payback down the line."
- Let employees use the tools with lightly controlled freedom. If you impose any but the most obvious restrictions (e.g., "No flaming."), you will inhibit participation and constrain dialogue.
- Resist exclusivity. When a business unit or team says they want their tools to be accessible only to themselves, press the argument that the full benefit of enterprise social networking comes from openness to broad participation.
- Include robust search capabilities. And: "Be sure the search engine allows for user-generated feedback such as tags and content-rating systems, because the point of social networking in business is to let people provide input into the relevancy of content and people."