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Social Networking in the Workplace

This Article was originally posted by Troy Allen on CMSWire on June 22, 2011. 

Abstract: This article provides an overview on social networking within the workplace.

Years ago, when I first started working with customers on the concept of Intranets and corporate portals, people looked to the World Wide Web for a definition of what they wanted. In a discovery session with a client, one of the VPs said, “You know that new thing out there….the one where you can move your stuff around…you know, MyYahoo?  That’s what we want.”

The customer was trying to put together an intranet to support a self-serve human resource site and a general knowledge base for all employees.  Based on the VP’s statement, I dug deeper into what he wanted and why.  The number one reason for wanting the “MyYahoo” functionality was because “it’s cool and everyone talks about how they can setup their own personal pages.”

Further analysis of the customer’s actual needs included a very straightforward search and retrieval mechanism for all company-public HR documents, search and retrieval for common knowledge documents, and an easy way for employees to add new knowledge documents.  With the VP’s direction, the organization added to the requirements for allowing users to have their own saved searches, share searches with other people, see all the documents they have submitted, see documents from other specific people, and then have all of these functions available to users to select for view or not and determine where on the user’s page it will be displayed.

Building Requirements From the Social Networking

The use case is a perfect example of how businesses and organizations are building their own business requirements based off of public social applications. The use case was also based in a time when social applications and enterprise collaboration was in its infancy. Today, organizations are basing requirements for their own systems based on the likes of MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger.com, ICQ, LinkedIn and Google Talk, just to name a few.

As individuals, we all have built a complex network of social applications that we use all the time. Just look around you when you are walking down the street, in the coffee shop, on the bus or even at the beach; people are on their phones, laptops and tablets connecting, communicating, networking and collaborating. We, as a collective, are officially in the digital age, ruled by these little electronic devices that tell us the best place to eat, shortest route to get there, which one of our friends is already sitting at the bar, and they can also show us images in real time of what our friends are doing while they wait for us to get there. And the corporate world wants it, too.

Companies and organizations want their employees to see the latest idea that the marketing department has put out, see directions and times for the next meeting to discuss it, see notes and documents about it, join a web broadcast session remotely with video and chat between participants, and have several participants work on the same document while people around the world watch and provide their input.

Many organizations are trying to find a way of bringing the functionality easily available on the internet into their own organization while allowing users to blend their professional company details and tasks with public applications. Many are trying to provide a social networking environment within the enterprise where employees can associate with colleagues, instant message and video chat with individuals and groups, and search for experts within specific areas of the organization. In addition, they are looking to allow employees to seamlessly integrate these functions with external social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

—-End of Part 1, please continue to Social Networking in the Workplace Part 2