Social Computing in the Enterprise

By: Joe King


The power and popularity of Wikipedia, Digg, Del.icio.us, Facebook, and other Web 2.0 solutions have caused enterprises to consider the benefits of implementing these solutions internally. Whether the end goal is better expertise location, improved collaboration, an edge in recruiting and retention, or capturing knowledge from retiring workers, enterprises are realizing social computing software has a place in the enterprise.

While internal social computing deployments tend to be in the early stages in many companies, the pace of adoption has accelerated sharply in the last six months, and this growth is anticipated to continue. An April 2008 Forrester report predicts that the Enterprise Web 2.0 and social computing market will grow from $455M in 2007 to $4.6B in 2013. So, the question you may be asking yourself now is "What is social computing and why should we pursue it?" This article should help you to answer that question.

Let's start with the question of what Enterprise Social Computing really is. All enterprise social computing solutions break down into individuals, groups, content, and the relationships among those three. The view of the person is central to social computing. A rich and dynamic representation of an individual creates a powerful "humanness" to the software as well as providing the actual business value for some scenarios. For example, if you're looking for people who know about Microsoft Exchange Administration, there is a much higher sense of comfort if their profile contains both a listing of certifications and RSS feeds that they read about Exchange.

The Groups of Enterprise Social Computing provide both a powerful way of organizing to do work as well as helping to establish the identity of the individual. Finally, the Content of Enterprise Social Computing includes the information that is not literally about the person or group. This includes discussions, wikis, documents, blogs, external news, video and much more. But, the real power of good social computing software is that it follows three principles:

Give the user a direct benefit for every action
Make all user actions as fast and easy as possible
Use the data from one user's actions to provide benefits for others

As for why you should pursue Enterprise Social Computing, the foremost reason is recruiting, retaining and retiring employees. The basic fact is there are two ends of a spectrum of employees. On one side you have the "Generation Y" workers that are already savvy with social computing tools. As a business you have to provide them with tools and working environments that match their prior experience. On the other end of the spectrum you have retiring workers that possess substantial knowledge about how the company really gets things done. They know the "whys" of the current practices and processes and that knowledge is incredibly valuable. Social computing tools allow for automatically capturing much of this information in the course of doing the work and for sharing it in a way your newcomers will get intuitively.

Another reason is for expertise location. Chances are sometime in the past few months you've overheard or asked yourself "Who knows about X?" The time spent trying to find an expert is expensive. And having multiple workers solving the same kinds of problems without the knowledge of a real expert can be even more expensive. However, social computing solutions make expertise location markedly simpler because working within social tools creates metadata that identify experts by their actions without requiring them to complete some sort of skills survey.

A third reason why social computing is important is its ability for collaboration. While collaboration can certainly happen by emailing a document among co-workers, the tools of the Web 2.0 world work better in many instances. Today, email is often the default "collaboration" tool simply because it is available. Reducing the friction of getting the work done through better tools not only improves efficiency, but also has a powerful cultural effect that supports the recruiting and retention goals.

If you are interested in learning more about social computing or how to implement it in your enterprise contact NewsGator's sales team at 877.669.6437 or [email protected]

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NewsGator provides the best in RSS aggregation as well as enterprise social computing solutions for Microsoft SharePoint Server.

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