Is social software or Web 2.0 for small companies?

One of my favourite quotes about the need for social software was from someone at Lotusphere who was talking about the integration of Bank of New York and Mellon Financial in the States.  He stated that the problem was he had 17,000 people over here and 23,000 people over there who didn’t know each other and were supposed to drive synergies from the merger.  How was this going to happen?

Whilst a great example, I’ve found that when I talk about this to small and medium companies in the UK, the response tends to be that social software is only useful when talking about numbers in those scales.  This is unfortunate, as I am sure it is not the case.  When we started Trovus and there were just the three of us, we used instant messaging constantly, and have since deployed Lotus Quickr to manage wikis and documents.  We no longer send any attachments by email internally, everything is accessed through our intranet.  We even invite customers into our intranet to collaborate on documents on occasion.  We saw immediate value of working in a wiki-style environment just between the three of us.  Now we are seven full time members of staff, the returns are even greater.  We haven’t done an ROI case on this because the price point is low enough that there is no ROI for doing an ROI!  Having a collaborative working environment around documents is as much a given as having mobile phones and email.
Social software or Web 2.0 can have two purposes.  One is to work more effectively with people you know.  The other is to find people who you didn’t know but should (as in the merger example above).  In a small company where everyone knows each other, the Bank of New York/Mellon example won’t apply directly, but there is still scope for using tools such as Twitter to find like-minded individuals and organisations outside of your current circle of contacts who are potential customer/partner/referral opportunities.  As long as there are two of you, Web 2.0 can be extremely valuable as we have found in terms of productivity and more mundane things like reducing the size of your email quota (which, as we run a hosted service, saves us money!)  The price point of tools like Lotus Quickr and Microsoft Sharepoint are so low these days that almost any company can afford them.  As Euan Semple said to me the other day, when thinking about ROI just keep the ‘I’ small enough that no-one notices!
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