What future for enterprise social networks ?

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2098

Social networks are often the key part of every “2.0” internal projects ? Why ? Because when the purspose is not to find people or informations anymore but to link people through information and information through people, that’s the essential link between tacit and informal knowledge, those who have it and those who need it.

Social networks may come in different forms :

– declarative : every user declarates his networks as he does on Facebook or Linkedin. It’s not very relevant, in my opinion, since refusing a connection request from a connectophile manager may not be very appreciated in the corporate world and such practices may only lead to duplicate the organization chart. More, criterias that may be professional at first sight but that will always have a part of  personal and uncounscious discrimination may put the actuality and quality of connections in question. Last, because no one can think of all his weak ties and, even more, formalizating them can be counter-cultural regarding to corporate culture : considering those who will wonder if they will dare asking and those who’ll wonder if they should accept, the game may be very difficult.

-  fact-based : the network, but maybe shoul I say “professional nearness sphere”, is not declared by users but analyzed through their activity on social spaces. Who read whom ? Who shares the same topics ? All these things can easily be found by analysing what people do in their flow, the tags they use, their profile.. In my opinion this may is more relevant and helps to identify the “real” networks, according to actual interactions and topics of internet. Since it does not rely on people’s arbitray power it’s more objective and there are few risks of favoritism, diplomacy and popularity competition.

Since networks are fed by social acitivity, they are tied to the applications that supports this activity. Most of times, they are a part of these applications. THe social component of people’s activities not being able to take place anywhere else thatn on specific applications, each vendor built a social network layer above its social application and native social networks vendors added sharing and publication functionalities.

This the enterprise social software landscape as it is today. But how long will it last ?

Voilà le paysage du réseau social d’entreprise tel qu’il se présente aujourd’hui. Mais pour combien de temps encore ?

In a given enterprise, there are not networks but a network. Rather say, everyone has one and only one network. But what was true when social software was a specific part of the information system may soon become a puzzle.

Today, and even more tomorrow, each application is beginning to have its social component. Sharepoint for Microsoft, Connections for IBM of course. Salesforce is joing the game withc Chatter. Enterprise 2.0 pure players of course: blueKiwi, Jive and many others. Tomorrow, every ERP vendor will do like Salesforce (with more or less success maybe).

When very application will have its social layer, what means, among all, social networks and rich profiles, will it be possible and acceptable that a company will have has many social networks as applications ? That every user will have to maintain as many profiles as applications he uses ? The answer is obviously no. First beacause it would be too time-consuming, second because the network, which is made to globalize the access to scattered people and informations, would be scattered in many pieces on many tools with no equal access to all employees. It would be a hudge step back in the silo war.

Solutions ?

– don’t tackle the issue. The risk is obvious ; either people will lost a lot of time or they will focus on one tool only and it’s the victory of silos.

– choose a “master” application and neglect profiles and networks from other applications ? Possible but there is a risk to underexploit the capabilities of the other tools.

– choose a “master” application and build connectors to the others in order to unify the networks and profiles. Good choice but supposes extra developments.

– bet on the emergence of a standalone social networks offer that will come as an overlay to all the applications used in the company ? Why  not if connectors are good ans APIs well conceived. But at this time it’s a bet.