Tag Archives: ESN

Islands of Enterprise Social Media

Last night I dreamed I went to Megacorp again, and as dreams are, this one combined such experiences with work I’ve been doing of late on open source wares and of being in a J G Ballard novel (my nearish neighbour sadly having passing away last week).

The dream was of a company as so. Imagine if you will a global panoply of very well-known brands of FMCG, forming a multi-billion dollar business with healthy profits; a sophisticated distribution network to consumers and wholesalers and other purveyors of the products; multiple business units producing their own independent goods and branding and the whole matrix working together to bring joy to households across the globe; but ultimately disunited by an intranet that beggars belief.

Some more details are as follows. The employees (and especially the Exec Admins of the more senior peeps) spend an inordinate amount of time ringing ‘offworld’ to get basic connectivity back, IT having out-sourced this aspect some years back. The employees do however have Smartphones, either Blackberries or such and these they like. Some use of social media by marketing but little or none inside the firewall.

How on earth might one introduce such an entity to the benefits of enterprise social media?

My thoughts are on something ad hoc. Pulling up the intranet and starting again, whilst a nice thing to do would be out of scope, remit and even possibility.

So an ad hoc enterprise social network (ESN) of nodal social media would have to be the only route. Dropping boxes into the network, no matter how robust or sophisticated wouldn’t work as the network would let them down. They would have to connect into an ESN  in the cloud of disaggregated social functionalities. Tagging and such meta data would pull them together.

Which software might do it? A series of Nings, but how to connect? Has to be mobile friendly, very mobile friendly. One of the social vendors doing a SAAS maybe, but would that apply a false unity on their flattened and distributed matrices? Perhaps nodes of open source social media would be fun. One here one there. Islands of socially mediated brands connecting via their own media.

Time to sketch how this might all fit together…any suggestions / ideas /inputs most welcome!

[n.b. I awoke early after 2 days of feeling very unwell and more sleep than is healthy, to the welcome of a bright London morning and drinking freshly ground Blue Mountain coffee as supplied by the most excellent Has Bean coffee co. – brilliant start to the day! Promo over – just a happy punter btw]

Burton report on Enterprise Social Networks

Mike Gotta has produced a very useful Field Research Study for Burton: Social Networking Within the Enterprise (free registration required).  There’s a good exec overview at CIO.com: Report: Enterprises Struggle to Adopt Social Networking Internally. Note however, CIO’s somewhat negative angle there, a closer read shows that there are a number of key hurdles to overcome:


Winning over old ways of doing things is key – ‘we communicate top down’ is an issue to be turned into an opportunity. Cultural dynamics are central. Conservative practices will win through, unless countered with a winning and workable option. In this HR is pivotal- you need to have HR on side. For IT, the argument is  different – Gotta argues that IT need to see that the needs of the business are what counts, not their systems. As one respondent put it:

“[IT] people are  not thinking about what’s best for the company, but rather what’s best for SharePoint. Ops is a consideration, but at the end of the day, it’s the business that counts.”

Therefore IT need to be won over if effective ESN is to see the light of day.

Business Case and ROI

What was really interesting was the business case and ROI for Enterprise Social Networks. The data shows a lack of clarity on either in the respondent’s minds. What this highlights is the need for the technologies to solve specific solutions rather than being a nice to do exercise. After all, no other project would be rolled out without such. However, and here’s the rub – as Gotta reminds us, there’s no set and agreed way of measuring ROI in this area. These are the dichotomies that make funding more and more difficult to ‘attain (and sustain)’:

•  ROI is the wrong focus vs. ROI is still appropriate.

•  Current approaches for analyzing web systems are sufficient vs. no best practices on what to measure in social  environments.

•  Current  web  usage  analysis  tools  are  “good  enough”  vs.  social  network  analysis  tools  are  needed  (but  not mature).

People in Userland

Early adopters are essential.  Make it easy to use. Pitfalls to avoid are actually trying to mimic Facebook inside the firewall – this confuses people. Instead build communities, bring people together as Profiles, based on their need to collaborate and share expertise.


Plan + Legals & Governance – do it upfront, or pay later. We know this – why do people forget it?!


One thing the Burton Report shows very clearly is that platforms are coming to the fore. Lotus Connections, Microsoft’s SharePoint and Jive Clearspace at the fore.


I think CIO’s conclusion is too negative. We are still at the watershed however and which way the current flows is still undecided.  From what I’m seeing in the UK, there’s a great deal of interest in the Enterprise Social Network, but equally the confusion and suspicion Burton has identified also prevail. There’s also an ascendancy of SharePoint here. Almost whenever social media comes up in any of the major career sites, it’s SharePoint MOSS that’s cited as the platform being used. This may have interesting consequences for the UK. Take for example Thomas Vander Wal’s SharePoint 2007: Gateway Drug to Enterprise Social Tools:

SharePoint has value, but it is not a viable platform to be considered for when thinking of enterprise 2.0. SharePoint only is viable as a cog of a much larger implementation with higher costs.

If this becomes the de facto E 2.o platform in the UK, will the ‘larger implementation’ ever really succeed?


This list of benefits is one I personally am going to learn off by heart!

•  We need to connect people globally.

•  We need to address generational shifts.

•  We need to break down barriers.

•  We need to “know what we know.”

•  We need to collaborate better.

•  We need to innovate from the bottom up.

•  We need to learn differently.

2 Excellent posts on social media inside the firewall

As per my post on Prince, too busy to do this justice but suffice to note 2 excellent posts on social media inside the firewall / enterprise social networks:

Businesses will live to regret their social media ignorance Suw Charman-Anderson

Why Your Business MUST Adopt Enterprise Social Software Larry Hawes

Put simply, people will find ways round poor processes and social media makes this more and more easier to do. More fundamentally, the enterprise will lose control of information if it fails to adopt social media – and not the reverse as many IT chiefs seem to fear.

Nielsen's internet footprint – a toe in the water at work?

The latest report from Nielsen, Social Networking’s New Global Footprint showing the growing normalisation of social media in internet use is of interest for several reasons. Most notable the age demographics refutes the fallacy that this is a novelty for young male users. The broad median of users extends from 38-49 across both sexes and shows a significant number of users in the 50-64 range, with the majority there being female.

Mobile time

Secondly, the report shows an increase in mobile use, particularly in Japan, where devices such as the iPhone are seen as a bit primitive, especially when compared to the functionality of the average Japanese fliptop phone. Finally, Nielsen note the increasing amount of time spent on these networks, this is increasingly not a flitter visit by users.

Implications for Internal Communications

So, what are we to make of this for the workplace? The most important aspect is the demographics. Most 2.0 literate internal communications professionals today, will have had experiences where 2.0 was dismissed as “not something our middle-aged managers will ever bother with”. One more case of refuting this. And whereas previous observers have remarked on the need to provide the same sort of tools and collaborative experience for Gen Y entering the workplace, the same could be applied to Boomers already there. If we can edit a website in seconds at home, why does it take a week or 2 at work?

Blue collar workforce

The enhancement of mobile use is also of note. As these things get better, even outside Japan then so their use will increase.This will have a knock-on effect for the the workplace. Put a WiFi device in a wireless work environment and even those not usually connected to a PC can be part of an electronic communication and collaborative environment.

Moore’s Mighty Woosh

Of course this does all presume a connected, e-savvy workforce. My point about WiFi ushers in the possibility of blue collars being connected with cheap(er) devices. Indeed I use my iPod Touch as a poor man’s smartphone and it works well as I move from wireless zone to zone. Why not then the same at the workplace? Even if the full impact of the tectonic shift – Moore’s great ‘Woosh’ isn’t there yet in the workplace, it sure is everywhere else, well everywhere that has the internet.

Not on the phone

On this we ought to be mindful of the fact that most people globally are not online. What we’re talking about here is for those countries and workforces that are already industrialised. Chomsky used to like to remind us that not only have the majority of people alive today never been online, most of them have never made a phone call. I wonder if this has changed much and if so by how much in the last decade?

Intranet Browser of the Future

Funny really when you think about it, a lot of time, effort, blood, sweat and hard cash budget goes into the intranet itself, the CMS, the platform and portals, etc., etc., but little all goes into the browser. What of the Intranet Browser? A few searches on this shows not a lot being done, apart from one notable exception Shiv Singh at the AppGap Intranets are not just intranets anymore. Here Shiv rightly to my mind, talks about the core business functionality and says that:

Today, employees demand more consolidated interfaces where all the information, collaboration, self service and business application access needs are met.

This is certainly so, but for Shiv this is ‘post-browser’ issue and ultimately a question about ownership within the corporation and a need to realign to meet employee, not application or dept needs. Yes, indeed, this is an item I plan to write on shortly, but for the time being I think one needs to ask if this is really going to happen. I for one won’t be holding my breath here. There are possibilities – WebEx Connect for example, or Microsoft’s Surface Table technologies, but for the time being, let’s get tactical.

Getting Tactical

I think there’s a low hanger ready to be scrumped in terms of Shiv’s one stop consolidated interface, in terms of what we can do with the browser now. The model I believe is Flock. I’ve written before about the way that Flock so neatly integrates RSS into the browser experience and that if this was more widely adopted in the enterprise then tales of RSS’s death might certainly seem to be exaggerated (Kick my RSS – How to make Enterprise RSS work). But, and it’s a but as big as Galway Bay, why stop there? Why not use Mozilla technology to do what Flock has done for the average social media savvy punter and do the same for the enterprise?

Enterprise Social Network Browser

This is what I’d have in my Intranet Browser of the Future:

1) At the top left there would be a series of buttons to access the core built in functions. These button would provide access to function bars such as RSS


2) There would also be a direct hard wired button to Directory. The Directory would have full Tagging and self-personalisation functionality

3) This tagging would tie in to other social media tools, all accessible from the browser. One would be Favourites – my personal and social bookmarks that I could share with my colleagues

4) I would naturally also be able to connect a wide range of other enterprise social network tools, not only bookmarks, but also my internal corporate blog, my forums, my videos, etc etc. In the corporate example these would be Yammer or Jive, all or a mix. The key thing is the access to their functionality is hard-wired into the Browser, not the apps.

5) So continuing in the same logic, all the corporate video and streams would be available within the browser – these could be live IPTV shows, streamed Video on Demand (VoD), or user generated YouTube type video.


And so on and so on. To reiterate, the Browser holds all this together to create the ‘consolidated interface’. It’s a Pareto fix I grant, but 80% consolidation in the near future would be better than waiting indefinitely for the full delivery.

Apologies for the duff formatting – I need to look at how WordPress is handling images.

Scaling the Enterprise Social Network Pyramid

Over at Bertrand Dupperin’s Notepad blog there’s a great article on Enterprise Social Networks, Social networks are the quintessence of enterprise web 2.0. Bertrand looks at how the active users has to manage and interpret the information flows amd how social media tools join up as a final layer, a ‘protean set of tools’:

Social network for enterprises is not a Facebook-like that connect people. It’s a tool that gather in a one and only place all the logics of web 2.0 (blogs,wikis,bookmarking,tagging etc…) and take benefit of this information to re-create all the facets of the link between information and people as explained above.

Reading this got me rootling through old archives looking for a model I made some time back where I try and articulate this in terms of how messages are managed:


What I’m trying to get across here is the notion of effective leadership and direction from on high, coupled with an interaction and feedback from a socially networked and actively participating workforce. The more strategic the message, the more structure and governance, the more participatory, the more democratic, organic and ad hoc. I’ve also overlaid this with technologies / applications. Thus the more traditional messaging is structured by the orthodoxy of a managed intranet and scheduled messaging via e-mail or planned TV shows. The more socially generated messaging is powered by social tools such as blogs, Twitter apps and such. There’s also the idea of segmentation and pushed /targeting vs, personalisation and pull. Not sure if the whole sits together – it’s perhaps too much of a changing target to do that, but it’s a model that helps me understand and to play with the potentials and possibilities of enterprise social networks.

Harnessing 'Enterprise Social Networking'

Facebook for the Fortune 500

Following on from my post on what we should call social media inside the firewall “What should we call ‘Intranet Social Media’?” My peers (and Twitter pals) from various enterprises in Europe and the Americas have suggested the following: Collaborative Media, Business Networking Media, IntraSocial Media, Collaboration 2.0 and Social Computing. Now Deloitte have waded in with an article dubbing it ‘Enterprise Social Networking‘ (ESN), or more catchily ‘Facebook for the Fortune 500’.

dancefloor-gagliasReady steady….go?

2009 Deloitte predict, may well be a breakaway year for ESN but they hedge their bets with the proviso of if… This ‘if’ haunts the analysis of both Gartner and Forrester too and now with Deloitte joining the throe, they too proclaim a simultaneous red/green scenario:

the exact extent of adoption may still be unclear. Some commentators claim enterprises are generally not yet deploying social networks; various Fortune500 CEOs believe the opposite.

Primed and ready

What’s going to determine this is when (not if) a big breakthrough is made by one competitor that outstrips their rivals that is a clear demonstration of the productive power of ESN. To gain a clear footing in this market, Deloitte urge that early readiness for a primed market:

Telecommunications operators and IT solutions providers need to invest in ESN so they have the expertise and credibility to deploy these solutions if or when they become more broadly adopted, and start becoming a more significant source of revenues.

ESN Consultancy

Whatever we call it, if anyone is reading this and thinks progressing collaboration, communication and social media inside the firewall is a good idea, but are not quite sure how to do it, then please feel free to get in touch. After deploying these technologies for almost a decade for one of the big 5 IT companies, I’m now starting to actively look for enterprise social networking consultancy work.