Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Two Sides to Social Networks in Business

The role of social networks within businesses continues to be a topic of discussion. Just today, I read about both sides of the argument.

In the latest issue of Information Week, the cover story is about the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies within enterprises. With respect to social networks...
Of all Web 2.0 technologies, social networking is the one that gets vendors and venture capitalists most excited. At least 17 startups are pitching social networking technology to business customers, while countless social networking Web sites are chasing individual users. But it's also the one about which our readers are most skeptical: When asked to rate the value of technologies, 68% say that public social networking sites are of no use at all. Only 5% rate any kind of social networking as very useful.
I'm not surprised by the 5% response to social networking. As I have said in the past, within businesses, I don't think there is a lot of business utility when it comes to "social" networking. I do believe, however, that is an opportunity in what I call "knowledge" networking.

The flip side of this argument is found in Dan Farber's interview with JP Rangaswami of BT. Rangaswami, former global CIO of BT and now managing director of BT Design, has been a pioneer in the use of Web 2.0 technologies within businesses. In this interview, he talks about the use of Facebook within BT as a way to break the "assembly line mindset"...
In fact if you look at what I’m doing with Facebook, what I’m really achieving, what any of us who wants to use it in an enterprise environment achieves, is to say that you’ve taken what happened at the water cooler or at the coffee shop and made it persistent, made it shareable, made it teachable, made it learnable. That’s a huge win because we’ve spent years talking about the value of the water cooler conversations, of the coffee shops, of the more amorphous softer discussions. Now we have the ability to actually understand what these relationships are, how information and decision making migrates horizontally, laterally through an organization, rather than through the published hierarchies, how people really work, and what people do as part of that work.
As I said in an earlier post, I don't see the business utility of Facebook. Next week, Rangaswami will be speaking at Defrag. I will be there and I hope to have the opportunity to speak to with him about this. I will post an update if I do.

No comments: