E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Social Networking Attracts the Big Iron Boys – Where Re-focusing on the People Is a Must

(Previously, on elsua – The Knowledge Management Blog at ITtoolbox)

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Last week Mathew Ingram, one of the folks participating actively over at the Social Media Today group, of which I am a member as well, created an interesting and thought-provoking weblog entry where he is actually questioning the business value of large enterprises entering the world of social networking and, perhaps, work their way through social computing within the enterprise. The article is titled Social networking attracts the Big Iron boys and you can find it over here. It is actually an article that relates as well to a piece of news published over at NYT, Social Networking’s Next Phase, on a recent announcement that Cisco Systems will be purchasing Tribe.net.

As I have mentioned above, it surely makes for an interesting read as Matthew actually questions whether large enterprises would be able to pull it off and adapt to, and adopt, social computing in order to help people connect with one another much better than whatever they may have been doing thus far by diving into social networks and providing their own takes on the overall effort.

His conclusion is rather enlightening and, certainly, spot on:

"What makes a social network function isn’t so much the tools as it is the attitude. You gotta have the “want to.” And that isn’t something you can get out of a box."

Yes, indeed, that is something that I have been saying all along myself in both of my Internet weblogs around the world of knowledge sharing and collaboration and how it is shaping up the way things are happening in Knowledge Management at the moment. Yes, that so-called KM 2.0 that seems to have brought Knowledge Management back into the spotlight (And about time!). It is no longer about the tools, nor the different processes involved. It is actually on something that we haven’t been focusing on quite a lot in the last few years: the people! That is right, that is what makes social networks successful in the consumer market, but also within the Enterprise.

So as much as saying that, we should also take into account that apart from building the different tools and technologies around social networks, we also need to make the necessary investments and place the focus on the people themselves. Help them to understand the key points of a social network, the benefits, the business value (Not only for themselves but also for the businesses they work for and the customers they support), how to get things going, how to find the time to be able to dive into the conversations, how to get around the different tools, how to connect out there with everyone else and the list goes on and on and on.

There is no denying that having just a social network for the sake of having one, which is what most businesses are probably thinking about at the moment (Just good for the hype and the buzz!), is not the right approach. Businesses should also think what they are going to do to place the focus on the people, to actually give them the chance to try out the social network(s) and engage with the rest of the knowledge workers. Without looking into that and addressing it well ahead of time, there is not a single social network out there that will survive over time and for an extended period of time.

It is a cultural thing, to say the least, for sure. Knowledge workers need to be shown how to work and operate in social networks, so that they understand how much they differentiate themselves from the traditional and standard way of knowledge sharing and collaboration they have been doing all along and up until now. Take, for instance, the example from IBM itself and its recent announcements of such social computing offerings like Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr.

IBM is not coming around to social networking and social computing within the enterprise just now. It has actually been going on for years! Most of the components from Lotus Connections, for instance, have been up and running behind the firewall for several years already. Such is the case of the weblogging component (BlogCentral running Roller), Activities, Social Bookmarks (With Dogear), Profiles (With strong influences from Fringe) and Communities. There are already behind the firewall thousands of webloggers, weblog entries, social bookmarks, tags, profiles, several hundred communities, thousands more of activities and it keeps growing further day in day out.

What has been happening all along during this time was basically preparing the way for us to provoke that cultural change / shift ourselves (Again that focus on the people!) and start thinking that social networks can provide a business value while at work. We have been having the tools for a while now and throughout all this time it has been an inspirational path towards adopting most of that social computing tools in such a way that knowledge workers have been in control of the flow of information and knowledge all along, which is where it should have been from day one. To such extent that nowadays quite a few of us would probably not know any longer what to do without them.

They have integrated so much into our day work stream that thinking of having a day pass by without connecting with your own social networks is just another wasted day! That is exactly what Matthew is referring to in his article! The fact that for social networks to survive in the business world knowledge workers need to breather, nurture and soak in them. The more, the better. They are the ones who can change the rules (Already happening!) and shape up the way they would want to share their knowledge and collaborate with others.

So what are you doing in your day to day work? Are you connecting to your social networks behind the firewall and beyond? Have you helped provoked the cultural change yet? Will it ever happen? Your choice.

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  1. Hello Sawada-san! Thanks much for the feedback comments and for dropping by! Yes, indeed, that is, in my opinion, the one key aspect that KM 2.0 will be moving around, and the one that will help Knowledge Management survive all along, despite the growing commentary from different folks about getting rid of the wording KM altogether. I am not sure where that is coming from, but it surely got my thinking and ready for an upcoming weblog entry around the subject of whether we should be getting rid of the concept of KM or move along with what we have thus far: KM 2.0. We shall see. Stay tuned for that upcoming entry.

    Also watch out for another entry I shall be creating around the subject of Activity Explorer. As you may have been reading already elsewhere, Activity Explorer is actually one of the several components from Lotus Connections, but I will go ahead and share with you folks some further details on what my experience with it has been all these months.

    Stay tuned ! (And thanks again for all the great feedback!)

  2. Channel Surf a social network on-line over a set-top box in real-time.

    Like the hyphens? I think it shall be called the Hyphenated Social Club or HSC.

    The real genius is the marriage of Social networks with Scientific Atlanta.

  3. Thanks for the feedback ! I agree with you that it would be an interesting trend to follow up on. Putting social networks to work in the real business world is where the challenge is going to be for the next few years, and the sooner we start seeing more and more of those social networks making it into the business world, the better. So thanks again for the feedback!

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