The business case for enterprise social networking

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Despite the promise and potential of enterprise social networking, it has only received moderate traction in the real-world scenario of the typical corporate organisation.

Employees are still confused about what to post, how to engage and what to expect from others. Internal communicators wring their hands about how to drive user numbers and get more people to interact with one another, while senior managers wonder what’s in it for them and are concerned about a loss in productivity.

The problem is that most times, Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) are often treated as a technology implementation in the same way as, say, the roll out of a new HR system. But ESNs represent a new way for employees and management communicate and form relationships. Implementation is therefore less about the technical deployment more about a cultural change, and that requires more thought, more planning and more stakeholder management.

The research consultancy Altimeter published some great research earlier this year about making the business case for enterprise social networks and I believe there are lessons for all of us tasked with presenting our enterprise social networking strategy to senior executives.

One in particular is about making the business case for your ESN. Altimeter identified four different types of gaps in the organization—tough problems that can’t be addressed by the current technology, process, or culture. The premise is that ESNs drive value through the simple act of connecting people with each other in each of these four ways.

  • Encourage sharing
  • Capture knowledge
  • Enable action
  • Empower people

Do you agree? Which other arguments would you put forward?

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