Justifying Social Networks?

UPDATE: I changed the title as I hated it, don’t even like the new one but it is better.

For some of my new readers I suspect this post is a bit “old-skool” in style.

Jason Corsello from The Human Capitalist blog wrote an interesting piece the other day proposing that maybe HR could shepherd social networking tools into organisations. Overall great post and of course HR has a pivotal role to play but there are lots of hurdles to get over first. My thoughts on Jason’s post are below.

So the question…will Facebook be the emerging platform for social networking in the enterprise…

Easy no it won’t. Why. Data security and confidential collaboration is still required. Could an enterprise version of Facebook work, so would LinkedIn. Just like no Fortune 500 company will use Google Docs or GMail as their recommended productivity tool, the SOX compliance folks would freak! We need a solution that can run inside the firewall.

IT, especially at large organizations, still maintains a command and control approach to applications and communication technology and will continue to do so.

They do and will always, while the CIO is responsible for technology compliance and up time. Now this does not mean IT should not deploy these new tools, far from it. But without a major re-think in the last 30 years of management development within IT, they will always own the tool and be the gatekeeper. One thing to note is “Best in Class” it organisations spend 60% on support and 40% on new stuff, most companies the ratio is 80/20 and for some 90/10. This means because IT budgets are almost flat unless you shutdown something down you are eating into next year’s new development budget.

Steve Roesler commented with some great insights.

1. Even the most tech-savvy execs don’t really know about–and haven’t been educated on–social networking application and platforms.

True but this is where internal evangelism can help, and not from the IT department, HR would be a great place.

2. The most tech-savvy exec I know DID NOT know the term “blog.” She is 40-ish, sharp, and headed to my blog when I told her what it was about.

Sad but again true and again evangelism.

3. Legal and IT departments are quick purveyors of doom with “you can’t do that” thinking. They are not part of the “how can we use this” process.

Again true, but not because IT departments want to be difficult for the sake of it (I can’t talk for legal) there are real issues that need to be resolved and it all unfortunately comes down to money. I know that by implementing these tools a company will save money, but IT is usually measure as a % of revenue, so unless your project has revenue impact (or you are shutting legacy systems down) you could have a hard time getting approval.

Ok I have been a bit harsh, but there are positives. Yes via HR is the most sensible place for social networking technologies to be introduced. The trick will be the business case and the politics in working with IT who won’t want to do it, at first. A smart CIO/CHRO will hire an evangelist to help them understand what is going on, don’t rely on you Business Analysts, architects, or vendors.

I’m not going to tell you the benefits of a social network tool inside the firewall, I’ll let Jason, Dubs and Systematic, maybe even Thomas (but he is a vendor) do that, they are able to break that sort of stuff down very nicely! I think I just played tag :-).

2 thoughts on “Justifying Social Networks?

  1. I think Facebook is becoming the unofficial social network for a lot of companies due to the email address book import and the ability to easily join groups and keep up with what other people are doing. The problem is the collision between your professional friends and your relatives in the same network. As George Costanza would say “worlds are colliding!”

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