The ultimate promise of the Social Enterprise is to build an environment that allows people to work and communicate together no matter where they are -- physically and structurally.

Social collaboration tools enable knowledge workers to interact in a variety of ways that build communities across internal and external silos such as employees, customers and partners. Subsequently, social tools are now everywhere we work.

These social features are showing up in applications specifically designed for social interactions such as enterprise social networks and in our everyday applications such as CRM and office productivity.

Overcoming Skepticism

Knowledge workers, however, are still suspicious of the value of having Facebook-like features in their everyday applications. One reason for this is the lack of connection to whatever they have to do on any given day.

There are lots of alternatives to using new social enterprise methods and features that knowledge workers have at their disposal, especially email. If social features don't provide enough of a bump in their productivity or make it much easier to do their jobs, they don't have any real incentive to use social enterprise features. It’s not surprising that ESG has found the rates of daily usage of these products to be pretty small.

Companies are using a variety of methods to persuade knowledge workers to use social features with the help of the vendors who develop the software. Better on-boarding, gamification and wiring enterprise social networks directly into existing business applications are a few examples of ways that are being used to get knowledge workers working with social features.

Another possibility is to rethink where and when we use social tools. A crop of interesting vendors are doing just that.

Finding the Social Sweet Spot


Learning Opportunities

A good example is Bloomfire. Bloomfire combines the attributes of social collaboration, learning management systems and online file sharing to help companies share knowledge, mostly for sales learning. The company found a social sweet spot in helping sales organizations to better train and inform their sales forces by facilitating offline communication around training content.

iCONECT also employs social features in an obviously collaborative environment: legal document review. With iCONECT, lawyers and other legal professionals can communicate using social tools to more quickly process legal documents. Something as simple as getting a response to, “I don't understand why you coded this document this way” happens much more quickly with social tools than through emails and meetings.

These applications seem to defy the user resistance logic until you realize that they are in fact targeting very specific processes that are naturally collaborative. Naturally collaborative processes involve human beings having to ask questions of other human beings and come to a decision.

Any process that requires lots of human interaction and is different each time is a candidate for social intervention. Identify these processes before even thinking of tools and then apply the tools. That goes for vendors, IT, and knowledge workers alike.

Image courtesy of Andrii Muzyka (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more of Tom's thoughts on the social enterprise, see his Building the Social Layer