Enterprise 2.0 in an “anti social” enterprise world

November 2, 2007 at 8:40 am Leave a comment

There has been a lot of talk regarding Enterprise 2.0 a.k.a Enterprise Social Software recently but there seems to be a dearth of vision for Enterprise 2.0. As a person who spent many years engineering software for the enterprise, here is my two cents: 

Today, the words “enterprise” and “social”,  convey two contradictory notions. The enterprise today is characterized by its emphasis on the productivity of the individual employee. For the 8+ hours that an employee is at work, they are supposed to be 100% productive (even though we all know that this rarely happens).  “Social” is  a word that does not really exist in the vernacular of the productivity oriented enterprise especially as it relates to software.  Everything in the enterprise is geared towards productivity, thus every enterprise software vendor attempts  to tag their software with the phrase “productivity tool”. With all this obsession with productivity, the enterprise is very “anti social”. Thus, the perception of social computing in the enterprise is not really the same as that of the people outside the enterprise.   While those outside the enterprise harness the variety of benefits of social software for variety of business needs on a daily basis, to some in the enterprise, social software still carries the stigma of being a non productive, time wasting web based consumer applications that you use at home (not at work).  Unlike those who believe that the terms “enterprise” and “social” are contradictory, I believe otherwise.  I think that there is a lot of social software that can be very beneficial to the enterprise but the enterprise will not fully embrace it until three things happen: 

  1. Social software companies need to leverage concepts that being applied by web-based consumer applications rather than try to implement these application the enterprise as they are.  Trying to implement a Facebook in an enterprise is not necessarily the right approach, however, applying the concept of a “social graph” for a Sales Department or “implicit web” concepts for lead qualification and cross selling will have a better shot of being successful in the enterprise.

  2. Elimination of the word “social”. While this may sound silly, I think I may be onto to something here. Words like “productivity” and “collaboration” mean something in the enterprise.  Take for example, del.icio.us concepts can be very useful in an enterprise intranet; however, calling that concept  “social classification” will not carry as much weight in the enterprise as “collaborative classification” So, instead of “social networking” maybe start using “productive networking” or “collaborative networking”. No more “social graph”, it’s now a “collaborative graph” J A good example is IM/Chat which was renamed to “Real Time Communications Suite” by some enterprise vendors (well, you guessed it, the word “Chat” is too social); it is quickly becoming a staple within the enterprise.

  3. The enterprise needs to make a mind shift from its current notion of “productivity tools”.  The enterprise is beginning to absorb a generation of employees who are proficient with “social” tools. Why not leverage the social tools to make them even more “productive”?

The perception of the gap between “enterprise” and “social” exists only at a semantic level. The convergence of the enterprise space and the social space is inevitable; however for some of the more popular applications, it’s not a matter of simply transplanting the application as-is but rather, transplanting the concept. 

I believe Enterprise Social Software/Enterprise 2.0 is here to stay. Recall several years ago many companies resisted employee access to the web in the enterprise because it would affect “productivity”.  Looks like a similar battle brewing here.

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Entry filed under: Enterprise 2.0, Social Networking.

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