Social networking finding friends in enterprise

Social networking tools are quickly becoming the latest Internet trend to seek an IT-sanctioned home behind the corporate firewall

Social networking tools are leaking into enterprises much the same way popular Internet collaboration tools such as instant messaging have done in the past. But users and experts caution planned corporate adoptions require lots of forethought to determine what tools and methods are right for individual companies.

Social networking tools, including blogs, wikis and bookmarking, are quickly becoming the latest Internet trend to seek an IT-sanctioned home behind the corporate firewall. Companies are intrigued by the possibilities but are cautious given the fact they have been fooled in the past by collaboration tools promising to help users share knowledge and be more productive.

"There is a long history of deploying collaboration and having it gather dust," says Andrew McAfee, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School.

McAfee was a featured speaker at the first Defrag Conference held this week in the US. The conference focused on tools that help pull together people and layers of perhaps unrelated data into something a user could define as knowledge.

McAfee says he is spending a lot of time talking with peers about social networking tools in the enterprise but that the discussion focuses on questions, most of which have yet to be answered.

Still some users are experimenting and they say they are finding benefits that enrich working relationships with colleagues scattered across an organization and fuel productivity.

"These tools give me a feeling of connectedness, a feeling of context," says Marie Bjerede, vice president and general manager at Qualcomm's Portland (Ore.) Design Center.

The company set up the Qualcomm Innovation Network (QIN), a playground for end-users such as Bjerede who are free to dream up ways to work smarter using social networking tools like blogs and wikis. QIN is a place employees can post ideas, which others can rate, and where employees can list themselves as subject matter experts available to answer questions from colleagues.

"There is a lot of innovation and thoughtfulness that is happening in our company of 10,000 people and it needs to be brought out of its silos," Bjerede says.

Her department started a wiki and individuals use it to share RSS feeds from their individual news readers. Users share feeds by clicking a button, which posts the feed's content directly to the wiki.

"We can go in and see what is interesting to others and that gives us a shared context," Bjerede says. The context is built by seeing what other people are reading, researching and writing about.

Far from being a feel-good concept, Bjerede says the context is important toward maintaining working relationships. "I can maintain connections on topics interesting to my organization with colleagues I don't normally have time to talk to," she says. Those people include employees in other Qualcomm departments.

Bjerede thinks these next-generation collaboration tools have a chance to succeed because users today are more comfortable with Web-enabled tools. "Wikis are not weird any more," she says.

And, she says, the tools address a problem that has persisted for years in that companies try to address information flow problems using a top down organizational structure. "Microsoft Project is not a very good communications tool. What we need to address is the problem of shared context," she says.

Creating that context or sphere of knowledge is a tricky issue, says Harvard Business School's McAfee. But he says social networking tools eventually push relevant information to the top of the heap over time.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Fontana

Network World
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?