Intel embraces social networks in phases

Social workforce is about being open and leveraging "wisdom of crowds", where small work groups aren't conducive for collaboration, says Intel exec.
Written by Edwin Yapp, Contributor

MALAYSIA--Enterprises should start thinking strategically about how to tap social networks to encourage engagement and collaboration among employees, urges an Intel executive.

Liam Keating, the chipmaker's director for Asia-Pacific IT operations, said many enterprises today are staffed with Generation Y (Gen Y) employees, and these workers are demanding new ways of working in the office.

"Enterprise social computing improves the sharing, discovery and aggregation of information," Keating said Friday at a media briefing at Intel's local office. "If enterprises do not embrace this phenomenon, the cost of inaction may be worse than they know."

He noted that the traditional workforce is "business-centered" and "content-repository" focused. This creates an environment where knowledge is confined to individuals or small work groups, he said, adding that this is not the best way to collaborate in today's interconnected environment.

In contrast, the new social enterprise workforce is about being employee-centered, open in its approach and leverages the "wisdom of crowds," he said.

Keating explained: "In our own journey of implementing the social enterprise within Intel, we've learnt that we needed to work more effectively over time and distance, and engage our Gen Y workers so that they will not feel 'small' and 'alone' in a big company.

"We also needed to improve the speed of finding relevant information and people," he said.

Noting that Intel first embarked on providing social enterprise tools for its employees in 2008, he said these tools offered only basic functionalities. The main aim for these tools, comprising blogs and wikis, was to facilitate employees' search for knowledge.

New functions have since been added, and Intel employees now have access to social networking tools that mimic professional social networking programs such as Facebook and LinkedIn, he added.

Phased social approach
While Intel has taken its first steps toward enabling a social enterprise, Keating acknowledged it was still early days for most enterprises to launch similar initiatives.

However, he urged enterprises to act now and start thinking about a strategic plan, which should include enabling social enterprise one step at a time.

The first step, he explained, would be to work closely with the human resource (HR) department and IT security to define the framework for implementation.

"There is a need to establish boundaries and policies [related to] HR and IT security, to accommodate the use of social networks in the workplace," he said.

The second step is to establish a holistic communication plan to educate employees about behaving responsibly while using social networking tools, he noted.

"Topics covered would include the need for self-regulation, mutual respect and beneficial collaboration with all stakeholders within the social network," Keating said. "The last step is for the technical guys to connect the tools with existing infrastructure, so that they would not be isolated and end-users will be able to have full functionality."

He added that the success of implementing a social enterprise network will not happen overnight, taking the form of an evolution rather than a revolution.

"Initially, these tools will be about generating ideas from one to many. As that happens, more ideas will be spawned as these tools will enable rapid responses and these ideas will generate other ideas," he said. "This 'Wisdom of the Crowd' characteristic is what will eventually win over the most ardent of skeptics."

Edwin Yapp is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.

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