Zeus Kerravala
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his...
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Zeus Kerravala | May 25, 2010 |


Social Networking Will Supplement E-mail as the Primary Enterprise Communications Tool

Social Networking Will Supplement E-mail as the Primary Enterprise Communications Tool More and more workers will shift their work habits so that the social networking interface will be the first place they go in the morning and the thing that's continually checked all day long

More and more workers will shift their work habits so that the social networking interface will be the first place they go in the morning and the thing that's continually checked all day long

Depending on how old you are, you might remember the days, years ago, when e-mail wasn't our primary communications tool. Back in "the old days", the first thing I would do when I got to the office was check voice mail. The first thing I would when getting off a plane was check voice mail. I would sneak away from my family on vacation to go use the payphone to call into our 800 number to check voice mail. I couldn't get away from it.Then somewhere along the line, e-mail came into our work lives and now I find myself doing the same thing. I check my Blackberry as soon as I get up, as soon as I get to the office, continually in boring internal meetings, and any other free moment I have. Like for so many others, e-mail dominates my professional life.

However, like the shift from the phone to e-mail, I believe we stand on the precipice of another change--this time to corporate social networking. Over time, more and more workers will shift their work habits so that the social networking interface will be the first place they go in the morning and the thing that's continually checked all day long, and here's why:

* The consumerization of the enterprise is a force that can't be stopped. This is a well documented trend that points to how many consumer social networking tools have invaded our corporate world. The reasons people use the consumer tools is because we can reach more people in more ways with tools that are better than the ones we have internally. Corporate use of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, chat, etc is rampant, and fighting this trend will only lead to frustrated users and even more frustrated IT departments.

* It's the tool set of choice for younger workers. Check out how high school and college students communicate with each other. It is with social networking tools. The only reason that a younger person might have an email account is to communicate with their parents, grandparents or other old people and even then, parents have caved and have set up Facebook accounts to communicate with their kids.

* It's better than corporate collaboration tools like e-mail and voice mails. Social networking tools allow us to build our own personal communities. We can communicate through text, pictures, video, whatever medium we choose. We can view what others in our contact communities are doing and build relationships that way. Social networking is a highly customizable, multimedia interface that allows people to communicate with who they want to, when they want to, the way they want to.

* Social media allows us to identify and locate experts faster and more accurately. Well, at least in theory this is true. If one could actually mine all of the information out there for a certain topic, it would be easy to identify "experts" in topic areas. For example, let's say an IBM sales person wanted to find an expert in UC for Healthcare. In an organization that large, the search would probably start with looking in the employee directory and finding the product managers for SameTime or SUT. If the sales person could search all blogs and tweets, an unknown expert could be identified. I recently had a chance to listen to management guru, Gary Hamel, and his thesis is that social networking tools can actually create a very fluid, dynamic corporate management structure based on knowledge, not org charts.

Now, with that being said, the use of social networking as the preferred tool is still much more the exception than the norm. Part of the problem is the tools we have aren't integrated yet and it's hard for most people to manage that much information manually. In a recent Yankee Group survey on UC and social media integration, 65% of respondents stated that social media has a future in the enterprise if they can better sift through the information, and here's where the innovation will be in this industry over the next few years.

I recently was pre-briefed by Saba (a global software company that provides collaborative people management and learning products to enterprises, Fortune 100, higher ed. and Govt. organizations) about the upcoming launch of their enterprise social networking platform that will be launched at Enterprise 2.0. The new platform can actually replace the outdated and archaic email platforms and will allow workers to get stuff done faster by providing searchable aggregated information and multiple communications tools. I can't go into much more detail on this since it's prior to their launch, but check it out next month.

Cisco earlier launched "Quad", its enterprise content portal. From what I've seen (and I haven't played with both) Quad's strength is in its ability to search tough-to-search content like webinars and videos (created on Flip of course) but not designed to be a full social networking interface (although it doesn't look like it will take much to get it there).

Both of these are great examples of where the industry is going and how social networking can make the giant step out of customer service and into the rest of the broader organization.More and more workers will shift their work habits so that the social networking interface will be the first place they go in the morning and the thing that's continually checked all day long


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