Social Computing within the Enterprise, a fragile ecosystem

Last week I was back in Tampa, but that’s not what I thought I’d blog about, what’s captivated my attention is the future of social computing within the enterprise, specifically – corporate blogging.

As I mentioned in my first blog post, I think anyone that wants to blog within the enterprise should be able to, and particularly for folks who are out of the office it’s a great way to share and to keep up with what’s going on. One thing that I am sure of now is that as companies begin to introduce products like IBM’s Connections  and as the cultural barriers to using social software reduce, the social computing ecosystem within organisation’s will explode exponentionally, the question no longer being ‘if’, but when.

Whilst stuck at Gatwick last week we started discussing this, a colleague introduced a notion that as more professionals render up their thoughts and opinions, (and thus place themselves open to wider open scrutiny) that their blog postings will become their personal corporate personae: “If you want to know where Garry’s coming from – check out his blog”.  He made a great observation that he saw the role of the ‘blog coach’ becoming increasingly important, this one was a new one for me, but it makes a lot of sense.

Everyone will have their own motives for blogging, with their blog’s forming a statement of those things we seek to promote and, by implication, those things we are opposed to. I’m not sure that a bad thing either, but today as we and our workforce become increasingly mobile, for those that are prepared to offer insights, giving access to your thoughts and ideas offers others the chance to step into your world and that can probably only be a good thing. One thing that time will show is whether having a corporate blog enhances the career of the writer – one thing’s for sure, a corporate blog acts as a kind of online CV, a record of the things you’ve done.

On a similar vein, last week, Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang published a thought-provoking paper too – stating that the introduction of social computing within the enterprise requires an unorthodox approach, but that companies had to be extremely careful of how far and how fast they adopted this new world technology. Forrester’s research suggested that the more restrictions placed on the implementation/pilot team, the less successful any social computing initative will be. They suggest that one way around this, is to be clear upfront on what is acceptable and to articulate how the company will react when the line is crossed.

Sound advice, sure, but what’s really interesting is that Forrester believe that whilst social computing within the enterprise often starts off as experiments that the key success factors revolve around having the right team members to take the initiative forward. From the companies they interviewed Forrester believes that two roles are key, firstly, to create the role of the Social Computing strategist who’ll lead the internal charge and that secondly, that you need to find a community manager for each community.

In conclusion, the takeup of social computing within companies seems to not come from IT, but from those business teams and early adopters seeking to communicate in new and more effective ways, in truth social computing technology is pretty redundant without the communties it supports to drive it. With the generation that has grown up with web, soon employees will start demanding access to offerings and ways of communication like those tools (mobile, facebook, cross organisational IM) that match the way they live their lives outside of the enterprise.

Did I get it wrong, as always, I’d welcome thoughts either on here or via email.

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