The Social Network in the Enterprise
June 21, 2011 - Palo Alto, CA - At one of the Churchill Club breakfast events the topic was on Social Networking in the Enterprise for SMBs and large companies. The discussion was moderated by Racepoint Chairman Larry Webber, who in his introduction, was identified as starting his career as a roadie for Rolling Stones during their US tour with Bob Marley. The panel for the discussion included Jeanette Gibson - Social Media Marketing Director at Cisco, Michael Chui - Principal at McKinsey Global, and Simon Segars - Director and EVP/GM of Physical IP at ARM.
The discussion started with how should they communication using technology. Blogging has been as basis since ‘05 and the newsrooms are filled is with the other end - carefully crafted news statements, but the interaction has be beyond just news and random discussion. The key is to create interactive discussions over the whole employee pool, as everyone’s job is social. Simon brought to the discussion that there are different techniques for different sized enterprises. For SMB, the primary method is still physical meetings with their partners and key customers. For the groups in side the company, products such as Yammer are being used to create a connected community with the employee base. The communication systems helps with multiple locations and multiple times zones share experiences on a common project. These discussions however, have to structured around rules, guidelines and have been built around formal teams. The formality of the project teams does not allow for interdisciplinary input into the projects, as they are limited by the guidelines for IP and corporate security and trade secret protection.
Outside of the group, compensation methods, such as contests for participation, and other crowd-sourcing methods have shown success. While a successful method of getting involvement, there are engagement, intent and retention issues from the groups formed in this manner. As a result, this is not a mainstay method of participation, but more of a launch and major announcement type of messaging environment.
The general challenge is that the groups - divisions inside Cisco, ARM, etc - are involved in BtoB activities not BtoC activities that are informative to the receiving party and messaging from the content creator. These activities directly with customers is still the purview of TV and broadcast messaging.
The social network directions, while having passive and active participation from the business members, still has no metrics as the how to gauge its success. The questions to be raised are how do you know what the level of engagement is, is the activity productive, is there a method to both recognize and use the information that is exchanged in the system, and is the effort to install, support and maintain the system justify the rewards and results? These issues were rasied and not resolved in the discussion, with the final commentary being these questions and their answers are being investigated and actively worked on to find a solution.
The next generation of BtoB social networks are being developed inside facebook, saleforce and other communication platforms. The key is to develop a system that is compatible with and not disruptive to the current business workflow, not a deviation from it.