Social Computing Inside the Enterprise

Plenty of stuff has been said about social computing, enterprise 2.0, web 2.0 – pick a name. Much of what you read and listen to is externally focused. The arguements come when you try to apply external tools and capabilities to inside the firewall. I posted a blog – months ago on “Why Managers Fear Internal Social Computing” – this was my initial reaction to some of the struggles I have witnessed. Have they changed some – maybe just a little. What I really want to write about is some of the bumps and bruises along the way. Maybe share some watch out for this or that points. Nothing is ever perfect, so if you are on the internal enterprise enterprise 2.0 journey – the ride is definitely bumpy.

Where to start? Let’s start off with maybe a strategy and insuring that you have that strategy! What is it that you are attempting to do? Many companies that I have talked with are running into – my CEO or “C” type person saw them and wants them. Better make sure you step back and figure out what business problems you are trying to fix. Average age of the company is getting a bit long in the tooth, having troubles hiring the “new kids”, or work teams are struggling to communicate or collaborate together because of time and distance? Figure out the problems first… The situation near and dear to me, we had tons of grass roots efforts throughout the company. Smart people, bringing in tools to help them get their jobs done. Be prepared for trying to corral those efforts. Your strategy has to include those.

Set up some rules of engagement – social tools outside in the internal – have very little rules. But, if you are bringing them into the enterprise, you better have some rules. While you are at that you may as well set up a governance structure. Having this done early on, could have you avoid some delays or concerns later on. Putting those in place, after the horse has left the barn – well, difficult for those implementing and much harder for the users to understand later on. Remember from the paragraph from above, the grass roots efforts – well, you know have rules of engagement – some folks get turned off.

Confront the fears of the managers and senior leadership. Even though some of them have come to you asking for these capabilities – fear is there. Security policies, perception, attacking the corporate culture, negative perceptions and am I getting my return on my investment. If you do not tackle those – the journey is going to slow down to a crawl. Make sure that you have senior leaderships committment. Words alone are not enough, they are out there demonstrating.

Have ambassdors or stewards to help others with adoption of these capabilities. Training manuals are worthless!  Get out and demonstrate what could happen. After awhile – you will have a laundry list of use cases (some you knew, some that you didn’t and those that are yet to be developed) to help you with this task. One key point here – revisit your strategy to insure that you are definitely making whatever you are going to use – fit within the normal workflow of the employees. If this is just another tool or capabilities – if the “what is in it for me” is not visualized – well, it will be come another one of the tools in the graveyard of failures. Once you have the use cases and more success stories, you get your ROI. You just have to have the senior leadership on board to make the investment to start – and if enterprise 2.0 does not get us any return – stop the funding. If it does – keep investing.

One more item to think about is, what is your corporate culture? Is the culture one that shares openly or does the culture normally lock everything down? I believe that you can have your cake and eat it too. There definitely is some information that should not be shared openly within the enterprise. The opposite is equally as true. You have to have the capabilities to keep information private, but that should be the exception and not the rule. Again – make sure that you have this in your strategy. You may have to work with the security and HR folks. Security to insure that you are putting the right levels in place. HR because depending on how you reward your employee’s – there may need to be a different rewards system in place.

These are some of the bumps and bruises that I have witnessed along the way. I am a very strong advocate that enterprise 2.0 capabilities can help me with my job (hence helping others). For me, I find that this has been a wonderful experience and has restored my passion for what I do.