Ah, the Irony: Enterprises Want to Collaborate-in Silos

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Unified Communications Converge with Social Networks

Results from a Yankee Group survey regarding the convergence of social media and unified communications.

I have to admit that I'm pretty tapped out, social-media wise. I love Facebook and Twitter, but when it comes to other tools, I don't participate enough to even remember my passwords.


I'm not alone in my social network fatigue, according to a recent post by Cutter Consortium Senior Consultant Claude Baudoin. Look at what happened to Google Wave, he suggests, noting that it fizzled out during its six-month beta, largely because of "its overreaching attempt to supplant other tools than anything else."


Personally, I always thought the best use for Google Wave was collaborating on shopping lists with my husband, but honestly, that's not exactly worth leaving your e-mail for.


Baudoin believes social network platforms are catching on and that we'll see a slew of integration efforts in 2011 designed to break down the collaboration silos. In part, that will mean a battle for users, as each one tries to be the one-stop shop for collaboration, he says:

In 2011, expect these fledgling efforts to convince people (individually, as well as at the enterprise level) to adopt these 'all-in-one' tools. You will not be forced to abandon any single mode of communication, but you will be able to manage all your interactions in one place. The owner of that 'place' is trying to increase stickiness in order to sell more ad impressions, but the users will benefit from recovering some of the productivity lost through the past tool proliferation.

He lists a slew of announcements along these lines; although, it's a bit confusing because he starts with Google Wave's demise. But the examples make more sense after that.


Meanwhile, enterprises are still trying to figure out how to do social networking and collaborating in some sort of meaningful way. I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn that departmental bickering and the resulting silos are becoming a big stumbling block-perhaps the biggest stumbling block-in the path of adapting social collaboration tools to businesses and other large organizations.


Ann All recently tackled this issue in a post with the telling title, "Internal Silos Can Suck Life out of Social Initiatives." Talk about a perfect example of situational irony, and an excellent example of the weird results you get when you try to encourage sharing and expression in situations that seldom reward it.


She mentions a CMS Wire article by Julie Hunt, which I think is worth a full read, particularly if you're involved with a social network project related to CRM. But it also includes a discussion of the internal silo issue, in which Hunt makes this excellent point:

Many enterprises are understanding the value of social media to better engage and retain customers, to attract prospects, make sales, help customers solve problems: Social Business-Outside. But it seems to be much harder for enterprises to understand social on the inside and why that matters. Enterprises must come to understand that social on the outside won't be substantially achieved - let alone sustained - if social on the inside isn't working.

All's column includes a list of what not to do, as well as some suggestions for what you can do to encourage use of social networking. It's a good list, but I suspect there are some repressed political issues at work here. In particular, I think there's a lack of trust in any "social networking" system that can be used against you during job evaluations-similar to what we use to call the "chilling effect."


The other and connected issue is that if what you say in a social networking situation can and will be used against you, then you can understand why departments might migrate toward siloed situations as a sort of "test" scenario before embracing enterprise-wide social networks.


I'm not sure to what extent IT can help with these issues, but off the top of my head, I suspect clear, written use policies from executives and small pilot projects that move toward enterprise-wide social collaboration, without actually forcing it from the very beginning, might be a good idea.