Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) is all the buzz lately and more companies are starting to recognize its importance. Some organizations still find it difficult to articulate why ESN is important, and evaluate the investment of time and energy it takes at the enterprise level. Although the benefits of ESN aren’t always as tangible as increasing sales or adding customers, they can be just as vast with an extremely high return on investment (ROI). In my opinion, there are three key benefits of ESN:
Normalizing Separation of Time and Distance
“The Strength of Weak Ties”
We will briefly cover each of these in this blog.
According to Gartner, the amount of data we are able to produce and consume has increased 30 times since 1999 and doubles every 2.5 years. Businesses are reaching the point where their information can no longer be efficiently digested. The “old way” of producing and consuming information, by having a select few create and distribute content to the masses, is now resulting in missed opportunities by allowing information to slip through the cracks. Companies are moving towards more of a distributed model as they allow information to get where it needs to faster and easier. I call this the “Shift from Institutional Control to Consumer Control” as seen in the figure below.
All companies have Institutional Controlled content within their organizations. This includes: manuals, policies and procedures, reports, best practices, etc. The problem is that the insights and perspectives derived from the consumption of this content are oftentimes lost. The unfortunate part is that these insights and perspectives are likely things most valuable to an organization. The reason is because they are typically the new and innovative ways of thinking about or doing things! I like to think of ESN as the “safety net” that captures all of this important information (see image below)
Normalizing Separation of Time and Distance
Another key benefit of ESN is that it greatly alleviates the pains of collaborating in highly disjointed environments. By disjointed I mean teams with members working in different locations at different times, which is becoming more common in organizations today. The matrix below describes the methods in which we share information or collaborate, and the pain points associated with each method of every combination of disjointed time and space:
Time and Space Collaboration Matrix
ESN makes time and space less relevant by allowing users to engage in universal collaboration. If you think about it, a robust ESN tool is basically a hybrid of all the communication techniques. Put a robust search engine on top of it, and you have a highly productive and manageable knowledge base waiting to be mined. “The Strength of Weak Ties”
The final key benefit is the concept of “Weak Ties.” The general concept is that two heads are better than one, but over time, there will not be any new or great ideas that come from this “strongly tied” team. If you can keep these teams intact and consistently introduce new thoughts and ideas, it will provide the team with time to innovate. The result is that you can achieve a higher level of innovation, productivity, and return on their activities. ESN encourages and guides people towards new ideas by naturally forming a network of information in which ideas come from “weakly associated” people or groups.
Andrew Carnegie said it best, “The only irreplaceable capital an organization possesses is the knowledge and abilities of its people. The productivity of that capital depends on how effectively people share their competence with those who can use it.”
Think of ESN as the platform that allows employees to share their competence with more people who find it relevant. The key here is that a thriving and well-governed ESN self organizes content, enabling employees to receive information that is of interest or relevance. This is truly the power of an ESN as it strikes the right balance between the push-pull of information within an organization.
There is one other benefit that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. A thriving social network within your company makes people feel more connected and closer to colleagues. Culturally, it can do wonders to make your company a better and more fun place to work. Oftentimes, it is seen as a recruiting tool and can be very telling of a company’s culture. Don’t miss out on this opportunity! As millennials continue entering the workforce, a good ESN will likely become a requirement. If you want to have a shot at the best and brightest talent, you better be thinking about an ESN.
If you would like to hear more about Enterprise Social Networking in general or perhaps how SharePoint 2013 implements social features, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 972.759.1836. More information on this topic can be found in the presentation, Enterprise Social Networking: Strategy and Implementation with SharePoint 2013, on SlideShare. You can also search our SharePoint 2013 posts on our blog or follow us at @CrederaMSFT.