There's a social enterprise revolution going on and your intranet is right in the middle of it.

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The social tsunami that has swept the consumer space has also spread to the corporate world, where social enterprise tools have been gaining user traction and executives are getting excited and anxious in equal measures about getting "Facebook for the enterprise."

For organizations using Microsoft SharePoint, the upcoming 2013 release -- which is bringing a full battery of social capabilities, like micro blogging, activity streams, following and communities of interest -- may have you seriously considering adding social capabilities to your intranet.

Add to this is the game-changing acquisition of Yammer by Microsoft and even the most hard bitten Luddite realizes they need to give some serious consideration to the use of social in their organization.

Of course, many organizations will have already been thinking about how to "socially enable" their intranet already, but have not yet been able to get it underway. (Perhaps you wanted to get started on social using SharePoint 2010, but just couldn't figure out what to do with those "Tags and Notes" -- I know I still haven't!)

When is the best time to turn your SharePoint intranet into a social intranet? To answer this question, we need to be clear on what we are talking about when we say "social intranet."

Fundamentally, a social enterprise is going to put more emphasis on staff as individuals, on the establishment and support of peer to peer networks and on encouraging transparency. Let's break this down:

Staff as Individuals 

An organization is made up of people. What are coolly referred to as "resources" in the classic workplace model are also and ultimately, individuals i.e., people, with ideas, opinions, emotions, desires, goals, etc.

People, when in decent shape, like to help, to share, to offer suggestions, to be recognized and acknowledged. A social enterprise seeks to empower its people and social intranets can play a major part in this, providing rich user profiles that include meaningful information and providing tools for staff to express themselves.

Peer to Peer Networks

Organizations are built on command hierarchies, policies and processes. People however, work both within and outside of the standard systems, establishing peer networks that are not limited to their immediate teammates or "process connections."  

Jon Husband refers to these deep connections as the "wirearchy" and for staff, it is these peer networks that provide the deepest workplace connections. An intranet is traditionally a company to worker communication. A social intranet will extend on this by allowing staff to engage with one another.

Transparency

The previous elements (staff as individuals and peer to peer networks) are arguably just descriptions of collaboration. And perhaps they are. This last one, transparency, is what most distinguishes a social enterprise. It describes a manner of working in which a person's activities are visible to their workmates.