Found myself getting interested in social media in the enterprise, driven by a couple of recent encounters with a couple of very different organisations who are developing systems in that area.
The first was ServiceNow, a cloud-based IT management systems vendor. It sells services that you pay for on a subscription basis. It uses ITIL as the basis for its service development -- best practices being the driving force here. What this means, if you buy into the idea, is that every element of your systems are managed in a central place. And ServiceNow is probably one of the largest companies you've never hard of, with over 1,000 customers globally and execs and techies from most of the big players and revenues north of $85 million.
What's interesting is that it uses social media to encourage discussions among its customers, while most companies would rather they didn't swap war stories. As well as customer conferences, it uses the usual social media candidates for talking about itself and encouraging self-help among users.
And I also spent some time talking to Moxie Software, a company -- one among many -- that develops a social media platform that allows a company's customers, suppliers, employees and executives to network, with the idea that in communication, knowledge sharing and collaboration lies a more effective organisation.
The company's CEO Tom Kelly reckons that existing social media are fine for personal use but are not secure enough for enterprise use, whereas an open site for group communication yields richer results than, say a static intranet.
As one systems designer put it: "The ability to have internal 'public' conversations where anyone can add their input would be extremely valuable in that it would help to lower the walls between various marketing / design / manufacture / test groups, partner companies, and remote workers thus allowing greater amounts of collaboration in real-time, without the need to wait for the weekly project status meeting."
The point here seems to be that companies are now recognising that there's a value in more open collaboration -- as long as it's suitably contained of course. That said, I can't see chatting under the watchful eye of the CEO -- who will now know everything you're interested enough to post about -- will be quite as relaxing as chatting on FB - er - in front of the whole world....
The main problem enterprises have is that people will still continue to use Facebook et al whether or not it's sanctioned, as there are so many ways in which employees can smuggle data into the company using their own resources. It can't be stopped by technical means.
The degree to which this represents potential security hazard depends on how connected people's personal devices are to the corporate network -- and since the issue of whether or not users can use their own machines for work is increasingly on the enterprise agenda, you'd have to assume that it is a hazard, and that it's likely to grow.
So the social enterprise is yet another way in which companies will experiment and use the tools that are out there for their own purposes -- capitalism has been very adept at adapting to changing circumstances -- while world+dog sit back and watch with interest.