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When Clay Shirky wrote Here Comes Everybody, he suggested that group action – community based and technology driven efforts – is changing, or even revolutionising, our society. Wikipedia is the much-touted model – but there are many others – where individuals devote their time, intellect and creative efforts to collaborate on a social innovation of some kind. But how does this play out in the Enterprise space? What happens when we try to bring these tools and open, collaborative approaches into our place of work? And how do companies deal with it?

Jakob Nielsen has just released a new report on Social Networking on Intranets. He suggests that, ready or not, Enterprise 2.0 is on its way – and could well be happening right under your nose:

Social software is not a trend that can be ignored. It’s affecting fundamental change in how people expect to communicate, both with each other and the companies they do business with. And companies can’t just draw a line in the sand and say it’s okay for employees to use Web 2.0 to communicate with customers, but it’s not okay to use it when communicating with each other.

The key findings, while not earth shattering to those involved in online communities, reinforce much of what is known and is already in practice:

  • Underground efforts yield big results: it’s easier (and more cost-effective) to allow small, hidden projects to build momentum and then endorse them once they have proven their worth.
  • Frontline workers are driving the vision: younger workers are already using these tools at home. You don’t need to teach them how to use these tools.
  • Communities are self-policing: peer-to-peer moderation is very powerful and effective
  • Business need is the big driver: these web-based tools are changing the way that we collaborate and communicate – but the tools are incidental. The real value lies with business transformation
  • Organizations must cede power: in the same way that social media has changed the way that organisations “control the message”, Enterprise 2.0 tools challenge the entrenched approaches to corporate communications

You can read the summary report in detail here – but one of the key takeaways for me is “It’s about what the tools let users do and the business problems the tools address”. After all, no matter whether your efforts are for collaboration and communication, customer relationships or learning (my professional interest), if you aren’t solving someone’s problems or driving towards outcomes that win for the individual participants as well as the organization, then you are just wasting time – a lot of it.

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