Facebook ‘Costs Businesses Dear’ – Does It Really?

I don’t have a Facebook account. At least, not yet, as I have mentioned in another blog post I shared over here not so long ago. But from that to say “[…] sites such as Facebook could be costing firms over £130m a day” is a bit of an over-reaction. It is not the first, and I bet it will not be the last time, that we will see traditional media trying to influence the perception of social computing and how damaging it may well be for the workplace.

This time around it is disappointingly coming from a BBC article under the title Facebook ‘costs businesses dear’, which right away, of course, has made the headlines in Techmeme, too. And for a good reason.

If you check out some of the different links that I have referenced above, and I am sure there is plenty more out there that would be worth while a read, there is probably very little that I would be able to add into the conversation. However, this time around I thought I would try to point out something that lots of people seem to have forgotten.

Yes, indeed, that particular study (Not sure where the link to it is, actually) argues the amount of money lost by having knowledge workers hanging out in various multiple social networks, supposedly wasting their time instead of doing their jobs. But what about doing a much more interesting and relevant study that would calculate the amount of money lost, the countless hours gone by day in day out from different knowledge workers trying to find the experts to help them get the job done?

Why don’t we carry out studies that show and demonstrate the huge amount of losses for every single business out there just because their knowledge workforce did not know who to contact to get the job done faster, much more responsively and with plenty more quality? Do we have to remind business how much money they have lost over the course of the years just because one department didn’t know how to reach out to another to help out in a customer situation? How much money and time have businesses wasted on reinventing the wheel at the other side of the world, when that same business implemented a similar solution, but for a different customer?

Where do you feel that businesses would be at the moment if Knowledge Management would have been in the same status and with the same negative reputation as in the late 90s and early 2000s? How do you think different businesses are going to successfully make the transition into knowledge based companies in the Knowledge Economy of the 21st century, if it weren’t for social networks and social computing?

I am sure that, as you have gotten to read through the last paragraphs, you would be nodding away and perhaps sadly identifying your own business suffering from that very same thing. Why don’t we have studies that try to portrait how much money companies have lost for not empowering knowledge workers to connect with one another, share their knowledge, collaborate and innovate as a a result of embracing and adopting social computing techniques?

Why is it that people keep insisting that a successful business is that one that just focuses on a bunch of processes and tools and nevermind about the people and their connections, when we all know that it is the latter, the people, that glue that makes it all work together.

How much longer would the corporate world have to go further, before realising the true potential of social networking; freeing up knowledge workers to do what they do best: share their knowledge with others and collaboratively innovate.

*That* is what Knowledge Management or Knowledge Management 2.0 is all about! *That* is the main reason why KM is no longer a discipline with plenty of negative reputation. On the contrary, KM is coming back, and big time!, into the spotlight, and the main reason for it is nothing more, nothing less than social computing.

Because whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay. It is the perfect complement of a crippled traditional KM system where tools and processes were what ruled and all a sudden there is this balance that knowledge workers are putting together back on to the table realising that the true potential for a successful KM strategy is to actually combine tools, processes and people and all of that through the interactions of social software tools.

So here is an open question to everyone out there … Would you rather prefer to have your knowledge workers wasting their time with their daily social networking interactions in whatever the tool and benefit in the medium, long term from those inter-connections, or would you prefer to have your knowledge workers wasting their time trying to figure where the experts are and how to get their knowledge to help fix that customer problem?

It is up to you. Really. But I tell you something, if I were running a business I know what my option would be. Encourage my knowledge workers to hang out in various social networks, dive into the conversations, use them responsibly and continue building further up on what really matters: connect with people to share their knowledge and collaborate, instead of having to struggle time and time again trying to figure out how to get the job done smarter and not necessarily harder.

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Worth while sharing it along?


  • Colin Mooney says:

    Hi Luis,

    Great post! I have linked to this post having read your thoughts on the facebook grilling from who I call the corporate “headstones”.

    Kind regards,
    Colin Mooney

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  • […] Ted Russ had similar thoughts a couple weeks ago. I found his post while searching for the quotes above that I found in Stephen Collin’s presentation on Knowledge Management 2.0 via David Armano’s Twitter regarding the video of this presentation. Luis Suarez also blogged about the “lost productivity” caused by Facebook today, pointing out that shortcomings in knowledge management probably cost companies more than time spent on social networking sites. […]

  • John Tropea says:

    Knowledge workers circumvent IT to be productive, if the company doesn’t offer it, then you will have IT rogues.

    How long does it take to implement company IM, as a way to prevent people from using open clients…and to realise that people must be using IM because it’s productive (helping them GTD), and fits a context of communication.
    The workers are IT’s customers, and there is lots to learn from people using your system.

    Blogs and wikis are the same, and now social networks are the new kid on the block.

    If a company blocks all other IM clients except the secure company IM, then people can still be productive with this tool, but they won’t be able to use it with others outside the company.

    The only worry the company will have is if work colleagues waste time just chatting all day…but we chat anyway don’t we, the the coffee room, on the phone.
    I think the gain in productivity will outweigh this anyway.

    Workers may be using Facebook as a productive work tool, and companies should realise this and adopt an enterprise equivalent.
    But at the same time you could be using Facebook to fool around with outside people, activities that are more recreation than work (eg. My Questions)…and this is wasting company time.

    But at the same time those that were using it to connect with people and increase productivity have now lost that.

    An enterpise Facebook would benefit the company, as now these people can be productive again and all the essential benefits you mentioned in your post.

    The only concern is whether work colleagues will fool around on the enterprise social network. If they do they will be found out, just like if you abuse the phone too much.

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  • John Tropea says:

    Stowe Boyd is spot on with this meme:

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  • […] Facebook – Facebook ‘Costs Businesses Dear’ – Does It Really? […]

  • […] After several weeks resisting the peer pressure of seeing most of the folks from my social networks on Facebook and been encouraged to join in time and time again; after a good number of conversations and twitterings on the pros and cons of being part of the borg; and, finally, after engaging over the last couple of days in a number of conversations around the blog post I created a couple of days ago on this subject (Facebook ‘Costs Businesses Dear’ – Does It Really?), I have finally decided to give in and re-activate my Facebook account. Yes, that is right. I am back in the game! […]

  • […] I was updating it right up until the night before, so I added some things that have been on my mind this week. Slide 20 shows the recent mini-controversy around productivity and Facebook, citing Dennis Howlett and Luis Suarez. Said something along the lines of Dennis questions the maths, while Luis questions the logic. […]

  • […] Remember the blog post I created a couple of days ago debating whether social networking tools would be costing businesses dear or not, based on a specific news article from mainstream media? Well, it looks like things may be improving a bit in this respect or, at least, in the perception from traditional media on how social media is impacting the workplace. I am not sure if you have read a follow up weblog post or not from Stephen Collins on the subject, but if you haven’t, I strongly encourage you all to have a look into Something in the water … […]

  • […] As I said, Andy comments on his blog post about what Neville Hobson has also been mentioning and supporting quite closely: Stop Blocking! If you would notice, this is a campaign that tries to help stop businesses from blocking the usage of social software within the enterprise; call it, Facebook, call it RSS feeds, call it blogs, whatever. Not long ago, I created a weblog post, where I was reflecting on the kind of impact that not making use of social software was having within the corporate world. And for a good number of years! […]

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