Social Networking in Enterprises
Social networking in organisations
By Roopen Roy Nov 15 2011
Jack Welch had once famously said, “When the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is in sight.” One of the changes outside that has assumed frenetic pace is the way we communicate, team and collaborate. There is a proliferation of mobile devices and technologies. And we are accessing, disseminating and exchanging information in real time as we message on the run. We are using Twitter, Skype, Facebook and myriad other means to communicate with each other and share “stuff”.
We chat, share ideas and exchange breaking news. There are completely new terms that are in vogue. Writing on the wall no longer means the inevitable. It means someone has written a message on your Facebook wall. You no longer dislike someone or something — you “unlike”. You do not disclose stuff, you “unhide”. They are almost like the new terms coined by Orwell in 1984 such as “doublethink” and “newspeak”.
The pace of change outside your organisation in communications is probably faster than inside your organisation. Many organisations have tried to ban Facebook and Twitter. Young employees have found creative ways to bypass those restrictions. The question is: if you find a tool that has the features of Twitter and Facebook but is offered in a secure, enterprise environment, would you turn social networking to your advantage? Farsighted organisations do not just embrace change. They drive and shape the change. They are the ones who really see the writing on the wall. Robert Goizueta, the former CEO of Coca-Cola, had said, “It is extremely important that you show some insensitivity to your past in order to show proper respect for the future.” That is exactly what many of us are doing — changing our past ways of collaboration and driving Enterprise Social Networking (ESN).
ESN is not a flash in the pan. The revenues from ESN applications will exceed $769 million, according to Gartner, and the outlay of companies to implement ESN will run into billions of dollars. It is a serious wave that will transform the way we interact inside a business enterprise and the time has come to grasp the nettle.
There are several competing products in the market. Salesforce.com has launched Chatter. Chatter creates a private social network within an enterprise, and in the words of its creator, it helps people to collaborate across geographies, teams, and hierarchies. Chatter gives “every employee a voice and the tools they need to be productive and successful.” I went to the website of salesforce.com and found that it makes pretty impressive claims about efficiency gains by Chatter adopters: 27 per cent fewer meetings, 30 per cent reduction in e-mail, 36 per cent improvement in customer response, 39 per cent improvement in collaboration, 52 per cent greater speed in finding information and 56 per cent improvement in managing customer information. The results are apparently from a survey done by an independent third party “on over 6,000 customers randomly selected, representing organisations across the globe, of all sizes and from a diverse set of industries”. Even if some of the claimed advantages accrued to your enterprise, it is worth considering some form of enterprise social networking.
There are rumours that Google will soon launch an enterprise version of Google+ and whether Facebook will launch a closed enterprise social network is anybody’s guess. The little David in this battle of Goliaths is a company called Yammer. It launched about three years ago. Yammer is used by over 100,000 companies worldwide and these customers include Ford, Thomson-Reuters, LG and Deloitte. Yammer’s website claims. “More than 80 per cent of the Fortune 500 companies are using Yammer.” Yammer describes its value proposition thus: “Enterprise social networking empowers employees to be more productive and successful by enabling them to collaborate easily, make smarter, faster decisions, and self-organise into teams to take on any business challenge. This new way of working drives business alignment and agility, reduces cycle times, increases employee engagement and improves relationships with customers and partners.”
While the wave of enterprise social networking is hitting the shores of business in every continent, there are “play safe” advocates. They remind you of how Shashi Tharoor lost his job for tweeting (actually that was not the reason why he resigned). Already we waste massive amounts of time on e-mailing, they point out. They warn that a colossal electronic Parkinson’s law is about to be enacted. One would recall Parkinson’s law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
In his delightful book which I read many years ago, Northcote Parkinson, a British naval historian, recorded a devastating anecdote about a German steel company during the Second World War. It had a multi-storied headquarters. All its steel mills had been bombed and there was no production. But the volume of paperwork at its headquarters that travelled from one floor to the other continued undiminished and unabated. Some of these apprehensions should be considered in designing the implementation strategy of ESN but should not be allowed to thwart its early adoption.
In today’s world of information from any device, anytime, anywhere, the balance must be found between hi-tech and hi-touch. Enterprise social networking looks like one such neat little bridge. It is not a silver bullet but is certainly an important building block.
(The writer is managing
director of Deloitte
Consulting, India. These
are his personal views)