The discussion started with an interesting exploration of the “why now” factor for conducting this type of research and the obvious demand for it worldwide. He gave some theoretical background about how technologies required appropriate business climates in order to become fully adopted.
Alluding to the Gartner Hype Cycle that describes the time it takes for technologies to be integrated and adopted, Niall talked about the tools that have been available for some time and the global business environment that has only recently become an ideal climate for convergence and adoption.
Today's most successful companies have been developed as pure platforms completely content-free for others to fill. Some obvious examples include eBay, Google and Amazon. All of these companies have based their success on providing channels for others to communicate, share, sell or review content.
There has been a fundamental shift in power from:
- Producers of goods to the consumers
- West to East
- Employer to Employee
Here are some other interesting points discussed at the presentation:
The four main uses for social software within organizations are:
- Communication – encouragement of communication between employees
- Cooperation – informal cooperation with no specific tasks or mandates
- Formal Collaboration – teams, committees and groups with specific tasks
- Connectivity – forming a deepened bond between employees and creating an environment to heighten retention and peer guidance
- Discussion forums
- Video platforms allowing employee uploads
- Phone to Podcast lines for mobile employee uploads
- Innovation Forums
- Proprietary bookmarking tools like del.icio.us
- Internal IT departments will start to experience diminished power as they become shadowed through outsourcing. When employees request solutions, rather than contend with the classic lines like “yeah, in 8 months” or other push back, they will look to outsource their requirements. This might turn their role into more of a consultative one.
- People organize themselves around clients, groups and then the company. It is challenging for corporations to pull employees out of these silos to generate real conversation and internal networking.
- 2009 marks the first year of graduates that will have had no experiences without the Internet. It will be interesting to see how this demographic will change the business landscape by cutting through bureaucracy associated with traditional IT push back. This generation will not be interested in policies, as it will always gravitate towards lanes of least resistance and heightened productivity.
- In order to get social software adoption, it’s important to have senior management champion the cause alongside the grassroots employee level.
- Social software should not replace existing intranets. Organizations need to deploy tools that manage specific tasks. Social software does not replace the administration of health benefits or submission of vacation time (although we chuckled at the thought of open voting for whether employees deserved to take holidays).
- Implement RSS feeds to help organize the flow of information
Finally, Sean Moffitt from Agent Wildfire brought up an interesting point about the measurement of success within organizations. He mentioned that one of his clients had implemented a social software program and after a set period of time, they decided the program had failed. He went on to explain that roughly 20% of the organization had adopted the system and those employees (roughly 3,000) loved the software. But management focused on the 80% that had not adopted it and deemed the program as a failure.
At some point there will need to be a layer of measurement that tracks the heightened levels of networking, productivity and innovation regardless of the number of users.
Each of the above areas could become stand-alone subjects. As companies build their social strategies, we'll see more case studies and best practices surfacing. Stay tuned.