With this post we hope to launch a discussion here at the Mobile Strategy Blog on a topic we keep bumping up against directly or indirectly: social networking and enterprise mobility.
We don’t completely agree with the idea that social networks (and the technologies/applications that make it possible) will soon invade and take over the enterprise. There are too many risks at the moment (security, regulatory and privacy concerns to name a few) plus the cultural shift for most enterprise organizations would be too much to handle. In fact the management of that change would probably be the biggest obstacle encountered during a shift of this magnitude.
One of the arguments in favour of adopting social forms of communication in the enterprise is more an argument against email than anything else. It is true, we can do a better job of managing our inbox and we can help our fellow enterprise beings by sending only what is necessary, when necessary and without being excessively wordy (like this post you are reading right now). Like any other decision, before we jump in on this we need to see an argument in favour of social networking in the enterprise (and for our mobile users specifically) which shows us the value. Much too often we hear all the fluffy, group-hug arguments… but we don’t see direct value creation and the proof we need to make informed and responsible buying decisions (i.e. ROI Analysis, TCO, etc). To that end we have asked a few social media experts to join this conversation (folks from Yammer, SocialCast and Pownce to name a few… we consider twitter too much of a rock star at this point but we may approach @someone relatively soon).
To get you started I wanted to point you to two interesting posts on living without email. The first one is over at Dan’s Blog (2.0):
Email as a medium is not keeping up with how we interact, how we do our jobs, how we live in the modern world. It’s overtaken by spam (encouraged by its nature as an open and free medium and the relatively little it costs to send out emails in bulk). It has no intrinsic trust mechanism (and developments like sender policy framework are basically a band-aid and do not address personal trust circles, only whether an email is from where it purports to come from). Email has no intrinsic semantics that allow email clients to do anything useful with them. Even advanced email clients can do little to help with this mess.
Dan then goes to imagine a world without email and suggests some alternatives (which seem to involve too many hand offs between applications = loss of efficiency):
Need to get in touch with a friend? Use Twitter “direct message.” It’s much more difficult for you to be spammed, because you control who connects to you. Bonus: you have to be terse. Need a longer conversation? Use Skype or another IM solution. Need to send someone a file? Again – IM. More immediate and you KNOW the recipient has received it. How about you need to arrange a meeting or a drinks out? Social networks provide all the mechanisms you need for this. Need to share a file with a large number of people? Use a Web-based sharing service like Google Docs or Zoho and then alert them using one of the means above.
The other one is at the IBM Blueprints Blog (Social Computing and New Media at IBM) and it includes a video of an IBM employee attempting to rid himself of the shackles of email.
I have never felt bound by email because it is with me wherever I go… on my BlackBerry. But let’s give this topic a chance and hear what others have to say about this.
We would like to hear of anyone already implementing social networking in the enterprise and how you are extending it to your mobile users.
Speaking of all this… the Mobile Strategy Blog is now giving twitter a shot. Not sure what to expect ourselves and haven’t quite gotten into it but you can follow us @mstrat.