Two-Way Enterprise Social Computing

When consultants talk about “enterprise social computing” they usually mean using the well known pattern of applying the tools and concepts found on the Internet inside the corporation. And here it comes: enterprise wikis, enterprise blogs, internal podcasts and video sharing, internal social networks?

Stepping back… Enterprise Social computing evolved from Enterprise Collaboration, Knowledge Management and Content and Document Management, addressing the need for social connectivity in the enterprise and within the enterprise business ecosystem. In this sense, an Enterprise Social Computing Environment strengthens the informal networks that exist in the corporate and professional environment.

“Social computing… a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations” Charlene Li, Forrester Research, 2008

Social Computing includes applications and tools like wikis, blogs, discussion forums, podcasts, social tagging, syndication and social networking.

A social network site inside the company is a reflection of the network of individuals in the organization — a “mesh” of relationships, both formal and informal.

Experience shows that, many times, the “real social network” does not follow exactly the hierarchy, and the boss may not be at the center of it all. A tool/web site to support the nurturing of the internal social network is needed mainly for large corporations with many locations, divisions, etc.

While an in-company social network site is useful, one that supports the enterprise ecosystem is critical to growth in the 21st century. The size and complexity of the business relationships and person-to-person interactions for the thousands of suppliers, partners and clients typical of a medium-scale company is staggering. Instead of trying to control this baroque web of connections, enterprises can learn from Facebook and MySpace and start putting their people’s business connections — the business_person-to-business_person relationship — at the forefront of the way it does business.

From the moment a company hires someone, it hires a network — a collection of relationships and connections one made in her/his career, most of them at the periphery/outside of the new organization.

That network is further enhanced through the constant interaction with various individuals in the ecosystem – partners, clients, suppliers. The network keeps growing, and the company that understands how to support such a network and benefit from it will be a successful one.

In such a two-way enterprise social network, both the employees of the “hub”company and the employees of the companies in the ecosystem interact in an informal, trustworthy manner, using the latest technology to create value for all participants.

A better Rolodex ?

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