Social Technologies in the Enterprise – Rising to the Challenge

By Evgeny Kaganer, Sandra Sieber and Neil Hair

“What we are looking at is how to build a collaborative platform hooked into business automation software. We need to develop a cohesive approach to support business processes with social networking because the real value comes from bringing the two together.”

These were the words of a senior IT Executive with a large global manufacturing conglomerate headquartered the US. The company, founded more than a hundred years ago, was actively exploring how social media and collaboration technologies (a.k.a., social technologies) could enhance its business both internally – with the employees, and externally – with customers, suppliers, and business partners.

Blogs, social networks, micro-blogging, wikis, and other online social technologies have long become a mainstay of our personal online experience. They are now spilling into the enterprise.

In this article, based on research interviews with more than a hundred senior and middle managers spearheading social technology initiatives in their organizations, we highlight the expanding nature of “social” in the enterprise and argue for a comprehensive governance framework that will enable organizations to make the most out of this transition.


The Rise of “Social” and the Need for Better Governance

The point of entry of social technologies in most companies had been the customer interface. As consumers started to spend significant time in social networks and online communities, sharing information and entering into conversations, corporate marketing departments seized the opportunity to reach out and engage these audiences. Overtime, as the scope and sophistication of the marketing outreach initiatives grew, other customer-facing functions – such as customer service and new produce development – joined suit.

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