In recent months I’ve been travelling a lot for IBM’s Get Social Do Business roadshows across UK, Ireland, Germany and Switzerland. One of the common themes has been the myths around social software – a view that it is just for fun rather than a significant competitive differentiator for organisations that want to succeed in the 21st century. So, here are some of the myths we’ve been addressing (and yes, if you dig back far enough I’m sure you can find me guilty of perpetuating these myths myself…)
Myth #1 – It’s all about Facebook
Facebook is the social software poster child. Almost every conversation about social software has to mention Facebook at some point. The phenomenal success of Facebook in the consumer world, so the argument goes, means you just have to have a “Facebook for the enterprise”. No one is quite sure just how much money Facebook makes, but it’s so obviously “a good thing” that clearly large organisations are going to need “one of those”.
I can understand why people choose to package the idea of enterprise social software this way. It’s neat. Everyone has heard of Facebook, but Facebook is used for organising parties or sharing photos, or checking up on what your ex-partner is doing (I hear that’s what some people use it for…). Enterprise social software is for business.
What we can do is take lessons from how Facebook works. It would seem crazy to share a photo with our friends by digging out their email addresses, sending the photo out, getting comments back by email and sifting through them and sending out the best ones as opposed to posting it online where people could review and comment in one place. Yet that is exactly how we work. The diagram below originally from Chris Rasmussen shows how complicated sending documents around for review can be, and how simple the process looks like when using social tools.
We can take this principle and apply it to document reviews, organising meetings and projects or sharing files, but this doesn’t mean we’re creating a Facebook for businesses. We’re helping project teams work twice as productively, or helping R&D get innovative products to market 30% faster.
In addition, when we do this in social way we can pick up a huge amount of data about how people are working. We can see how many times a file has been downloaded (and who downloaded it), whether it has been recommended, comments people have made (and who made them). Using the Files service in IBM Connections, we have downloaded over 5.6 petabytes of files. That’s a lot of data that hasn’t been through our email system. Some files have been immensely popular – “The Man Who Should Have Used Connections” has been downloaded over 16,000 times. You can make an ROI case out of quite boring information such as storage and data saved going through email before trying to quantify “employee engagement” (that’s another myth…).
So – don’t expect to get buy in from executives for social tools by proposing a Facebook for the enterprise. Instead, show them Chris’s diagram and talk about a process that is being run as per the left hand side and say “wouldn’t it me more effective, if we worked like this instead…”