7 Replies Latest reply on Nov 10, 2015 6:06 PM by tshort

    Does an enteprise need to be "social" for a "Social Intranet" to work?

    Ryan Rutan

      In general, looking for an open discussion.  In my experience, as well as observing others talking about their companies ... I seem to hear an alarming number of people express concern that a social intranet would never work in their corporate culture.   To cut to the chase, I'd like to hear your opinons.


      My opinion:

      I think the answer is No. A Social Intranet will work in any organization, regardless of culture.  At the end of the day, a company's end goal is to make money (in most cases), and Social Intranets have proven widely successful at doing just that, by connecting the work-force and providing faster channels of response.  To be very clear, Social = Social on the consumer web.  Social = Business in the enterprise.  When email was introduced, people were reluctant to adopt; however, they learned quick that it was a faster way to get work done.  Similarly, as soon as people see the Social Intranet as a means of boosting their productivity and simplifying their day, they WILL latch on.  This isn't to say that everyone will skip down the halls, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya; however, it does mean that when it comes to getting the work done ... people will use whatever tools at their disposal to make their job more simple.

      Socializing your work-force is the easiest step in a social intranet roll-out.  In most cases, a solid social business platform will do most of the work for you; however, it's the next step that many people tend to overlook in discussion when talking about Social Intranets, which is: Socializing enterprise applications.  Just imagine reinvigorating investments into depreciating enterprise systems, such as ERP, CRM, and ECM, by connecting your newly socialized work-force into these systems in a manner that is both contextually relevant and actionable.  Imagine giving your employees a system that is fun to use, improves their morale (by connecting them with the organization), and makes them more efficient interacting with both people and key enterprise systems.  Soon, I see this vision being a true universal work-place differentiater; meaning, employees choosing employers based on such an environment.


      That is the story of Social Intranet that excites me, and why I am such an advocate of the Jive Platform and Jive Apps Framework.  I believe (without hesitation) that a Social Intranet built on Jive can provide a true competitive advantage for ANY company in ANY industry.  Success story after success story have proven the road ahead is worth taking the first step.



      Q:  Does an enterprise need to be "social" for a "Social Intranet" to work?

      A:  No, as long as a company is in business to make money ... a social intranet (on the right platform) will be VERY successful.

        • Re: Does an enteprise need to be "social" for a "Social Intranet" to work?

          How about a strong maybe? It will have much to do with management and leadership. We (the CMs populating this great community) all know humans are the most social creatures. If you provide a social enabling tool and encourage usage, they will embrace the tool. However, if leadership and next mgmt layer don't encourage adoption, it doesnt happen.  Perfect example - an emerging CM confided to me his/her manager does not want too much time expended on CM work in a very nascent community. If a person's performance review is not about community and CM work, guess what wins out?


          So, in my opinion, it boils down to the expectations from the top. This has to absolutely cascade throughout the mgmt layer and be a piece of their measurement.Otherwise, people will continue to use current "tried and true" methods.  .

          • Re: Does an enteprise need to be "social" for a "Social Intranet" to work?

            Some of the confusion in this question comes down to the use of the word 'social'.


            By social we really mean that organisations are actually full of humans, making them a type of social system. A social intranet simply acknowledges that fact and uses the capabilities of social software to manage that human system in a way that is more effective than past technologies were able (see authors such as Clay Shirky for more on this).


            A good example of what this means can be found in social network analysis of organisations - there is different shape between the organisational chart and the actual people networks that exist in organisations (who do you trust? who do you ask for advice? who fixes problems for you? etc).


            Of course, if organizational culture is deliberately de-humanizing then a social intranet is going to fail.

            • Re: Does an enteprise need to be "social" for a "Social Intranet" to work?
              Keeley Sorokti

              Thanks for starting this discussion Ryan Rutan - excellent question.


              I'm not sure I agree that just because a business is focused on making money that a social intranet will work. I've started asking my friends who are not in the social business space about social tools used in their workplaces. I have received many more eye rolls than enthusiastic success stories. Often people say that a social tool was thrown up in their organization but nobody understands why, how or when to use it and that the leaders aren't using it regularly. So while I think a social tool could work in any organization, there are cases where it doesn't work. Over time the failures may go down since these tools will become the norm.


              I agree with john ridings that it might work but that leaders (not necessarily just officially sanctioned leaders but also informal leaders) modeling the desired "social" behavior in the selected tool is key. One of my colleagues in the MSLOC program is about to start her capstone research in this area - am looking forward to seeing the outcome.


              While having a great tool is important I tend not to lead with the technology but rather with the environment in which the technology is embedded. I was recently having a similar conversation with a colleague, Jeff Merrell (@jeffmerrell on Twitter). We were discussing the pros and cons of introducing social tools in small ways, doing some experiments and then moving the tools into the larger organization vs. a 'go big or go home' strategy. In the MSLOC program at Northwestern we opted for the more organic, experimentation path. We are just starting to implement Jive as a program-wide private social network after 3 years of experimentation on various social platforms at the class/group level (Ning, Blackboard blogging, etc.). Our community culture is now much more open to online conversation and knowledge sharing; a critical mass of students and faculty have developed strong digital literacy skills. After several years of experimenting with online conversation, our students can't wait for Jive now. We won't have to focus on convincing people to use the tool or explain the benefits - they want it yesterday!


              I'm sure there are many cases of successfully launching a social intranet tool without experimentation or working to get the culture "ready" - there isn't a set formula for any of this. I wonder how many instances there are of recovering from a failed launch though? Will new social tools introduced after a failed launch be readily adopted?

              • Re: Does an enteprise need to be "social" for a "Social Intranet" to work?

                Not more than a few years down the line, the condition will be opposite to what was a few years ago.

                Companies won't be able to survive without ESNs.

                That's a privilege to collaborate with your fellow associates on a social platform, that too within premises.

                • Re: Does an enteprise need to be "social" for a "Social Intranet" to work?
                  Dennis Pearce

                  I think all organizations are social, otherwise they wouldn't be organizations, just collections of individuals.  So I think they can all make use of a social intranet.  The question is whether they are happy with the social infrastructure they have.  Is the tool being deployed in order to amplify and optimize the existing network, or to enable them to move toward the network they wish they had?  Those are two different change efforts with different problems and different change management strategies.

                  • Re: Does an enteprise need to be "social" for a "Social Intranet" to work?

                    Resurrecting this one after three years of dormancy. Interesting muse.


                    My take on it is that the utility of a physical tool like a shovel is governed by one dimension only: the comparative utility of available alternatives. So if you're digging a hole in your backyard to plant a tree, and all you've got is the soup can you're using, then a shovel is going to look mighty fine indeed. Adoption issues? Zip.


                    We can't think about the world of work in the same way, because much of what mediates how things get done is subjective and also hidden. People build coalitions and power bases. They have reputations and secondary and tertiary agendas that may not be visible to others. These are mediating variables that affect greatly the degree to which a new tool is readily adopted and used in an enterprise environment. It's not as one-dimensional as functional utility, like the soup can/shovel is.


                    So culture does make a difference.