I’ve got a quick question for you: what’s the most popular site on the web? If you said “Facebook”, then I think that you’d be correct. Almost without exception, each and every person at your company may be visiting this site at least once each day to tell their friends what they’ve been up to. If only there was some way to capture the excitement and power of Facebook and find a way to apply it to the work that your company’s employees do every day. Oh wait, there is!
What’s The Big Deal About Social Networking?
Just how popular is that Facebook thing? They have as of last count 800M active users! Clearly we humans have a need to connect and share status information that Facebook has very cleverly filled for us. It turns out that the same need exists where we work.
Pretty much since businesses were first created, the folks who run the place, including CIOs, have been looking for ways to harness the importance of information technology in order to get their employees to share more information with each other. The thinking goes that the more that you know about what others are doing, the better you’ll be able to do your job.
Traditionally, we’ve been using email to try to accomplish this. However, as we all know that doesn’t work out all that well. We get behind in our email and we can’t seem to get caught up while things keep changing faster than email would ever allow us to keep up with.
It has been a part of the CIO job to be on top of this need for a number of years now. I’m not sure what the first solution was, but I’d be willing to bet that it had something to do with bulletin boards and thumbtacks. In recent years, CIOs and their IT departments have tried a number of different solutions including Wikis and blogs. These solutions have met with mixed success – they really require someone to be dedicated to working on them in order for them to have any real value.
Facebook has changed all of this. Now your company’s workers have been taught by Facebook how to keep their status updated all the time. They know how to set up their own profile, how to form groups, and how they can “follow” other people’s status updates.
Best Practices For Social Networking At Work
Why not sign everyone in the office up for Facebook and then be done with it? Well, ok, for a whole bunch of reasons including personal privacy and keeping control over your company’s proprietary information that would not be the right thing to do.
I’ve got some good news for you: there are commercial Facebook alternatives. These include solutions from Yammer Inc., Tibco Software Inc., and Salesforce.com Inc.
As with all software tools, you can’t just install the software and hope that this will solve every communication problem that your company has been having. Instead, you are going to have to give your company’s employees a bit of a nudge in the right direction in order to make this a success.
One of the key “lessons learned” that is coming back from firms that have already implemented their own in-house social networking solution is to make sure to leverage the power of groups. An individual user of a social networking solution only has so much value; however, if you make that person a part of one or more groups then suddenly they become a key part of the company’s success.
Groups can be automatically set up and people can be assigned by the IT department – teams, departments, branches, divisions, business units, etc. However, you are also going to want to put the power to both create groups and to join groups into the hands of your end users. They’ll naturally form their own groups in order to tackle problems and stay on top of situations that develop.
Another key success factor has to do with who uses the company’s social networking service. The answer has to include the company’s senior management. As the workers start to become aware that the people who are running the company are both using and monitoring the new workplace social networking system, they’ll get the message that this is the way that business is going to be done going forward. They’ll start to use it more and that’s when things will really take off!
What All Of This Means For You
In order for your company to compete in the modern global economy, you are going to need to have every employee contributing to your success. In order to make this happen, you’ll need to find a way to allow all of your employees to communicate with each other seamlessly.
Facebook has shown CIOs the way: it’s all about social networking. Since using Facebook at work is not an option, commercial alternatives are available. Once implemented, CIOs need to make sure that they leverage the power of groups and that they make sure that the company’s senior managers use the new social networking tool.
We are just at the start of a new way to exchange information within the company. Not all of the rules are in place yet, you need to use your CIO position to be out in front and leading the charge. Now get out there and make sure that everyone “likes” everyone else!
Question For You: Do you think that you should allow your workplace social networking tool to interface to Facebook?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
As CIO, a big part of your job is to help your company realize the importance of information technology and, based on this, help them to both collect and store data. Once you have it, you need to scrub it, maintain it, and protect it. However, has anyone every told you how to do the most important thing with it – use it?