Is Enterprise Social a Waste?

Greg MeanyNews1 Comment

trash dump

At the recent Sierra Ventures CIO Summit, about 40 CIOs voted enterprise social tools as the most over-hyped products of the year. As reported by AllThingsD:

Their reasoning, as Al Campa, a partner at Sierra Ventures put it, was equally simple: “They don’t feel there’s any evidence for a return on investment or ROI,” he said. “It just didn’t move the needle for them when compared to other technologies they looked at.”

With the rise of all things social, it makes you wonder why they would see no bottom line impact. One possible explanation is that many enterprise social tools add a lot of noise but not a lot of knowledge.  These tools can seem like an extension of the consumerization of IT trend that has become standard in most large organizations. The reasoning is simple enough; individuals use great collaboration tools in their personal life so why not adopt those tools inside the workplace.

When you apply this approach to enterprise social tools you inevitably end up with systems that offer a Facebook-like posting capability that asks “What’s on your mind today?” or “What are you working on?”. This feels very comfortable to most people. It’s an activity done everyday in their personal lives.

In many cases these posts are cataloged by time and date, much like your Facebook wall. Unfortunately this makes the posts largely unsearchable. So unless you know when you saw a post there’s no mechanism to find it again.  This is why most of the current enterprise social interaction is not hitting the bottom line. You can’t find the info provided by your peers when you need it.  Even worse these systems can be yet another activity feed that employees have to spend time reading while getting little business value.

So is the current crop of enterprise social software a waste?  Clearly for the 40 CIOs surveyed, it is.  Why aren’t they seeing business value?  Most likely because the systems they have deployed are only driving social interactions. Unfortunately these interactions are not contributing to organizational productivity and as such have limited business value.  Enterprises that want to have a real business impact with their social efforts need to focus on capabilities that provide actionable information to their teams. This will help the companies get to market faster, serve customers better and enable a productive work environment for employees.

Always interested in your thoughts…