Social Computing behind the firewall | Pay attention to the ‘social’ behind the ‘computing’ for success

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With the advent of web2.0 and the perceived success of these technologies, tools, applications & platforms on the internet, making these tools & applications available behind the firewall seems to be the flavor of the season. It seems that any organization worth it’s salt ‘has to have‘ a enterprise 2.0 or web2.0 or a social strategy.  Most of the time, the people leading these initiatives don’t understand the essence of ‘web2.0/social’ applications and these initiatives then get reduced to rolling out blogs, wiki’s, social networking tools behind the firewall and asking people to use them.

This strategy of just rolling out social networking tools, without understanding why social computing works on the internet, is a recipe for disaster and any enterprise2.0 or social computing initiative based on a focus of just the ‘technology’ part will be short lived and not go anywhere. Anyone leading a social computing initiative behind the firewall needs to understand the ‘social science’ behind the ‘computing’ to appreciate why it has worked in the internet world and what all ‘social’ factors need to be considered and appropriate changes that need to be made in order for it to work in the more restricted ecology of a modern organisation.

Some of the underlying ‘social’ concepts that one needs to understand are:

  • User Participation: What factors drive user behavior and participation in social computing platforms on the internet? What are the key drivers and how is the organizational playground different from the internet w.r.t these key factors & drivers?
  • Emergence & Evolution: Do the managers & leaders of the organization understand the role of emergence in social computing or are they impatient and need all answers upfront and a ‘predictable‘ outcome with all intermediate steps outlined?
  • Managing vs Nurturing: Does the environment of the organization  create space for nurturing of people, ideas, thoughts, aspirations of employees or is the organization all about managing numbers, KRA’s etc.
  • The Arena Itself: What is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander here. The dynamics, the participation levels, the numbers of people participating in the social applications on internet would be vastly different from that behind the firewall.
  • Value Networks: Do organizations that want to extend the social computing platforms to their customers/partners etc understand that this is not just as simple as offering these platforms to customers? What are the additional things that need to be done?
  • Cultural Alignment: The ‘secret sauce’ according to me in the whole recipe of social computing behind the firewall. One could have an organization that understands all this but still does not have the right cultural alignment to make social computing work. What are the critical factors w.r.t culture here?

Social computing has the potential to transform how business operates, how the flow of business knowledge, insights, intelligence and collaboration happens across the organization. Social computing can create alternative & more effective ways of communicating and collaborating across the organization, but the  key to that promise lies in how well the leaders of the social computing initiative understand the above ‘social’ concepts & realities.

I will try and outline the key aspects of  each of the above points in more detail in my subsequent posts.

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