Some colleagues and I are having an online debate on the role of enterprise social networking in enterprise systems. In particular, we are looking at ESN in relation to process management. I thought it might be useful to present some thoughts here, for you to consider and, perhaps, respond to.
To make the material more digestible, I’ve divided it into four topics. I’ll post about each separately:
- The nature of social networking
- What process management does
- AIIM’s ‘systems of record’ versus ‘systems of engagement’
- How all this affects social networking products.
This first posting is based on some contributions I’ve already made to the internal debate.
The nature of social networking
Social media and social networking should be thought of as separate to the process realm. Much of social networking is voluntary, whereas process management is mainly compulsory.
In our 2009 report on enterprise social networking, Carl Potter and I defined social networking as:
…people within groups communicating informally over electronic networks. Those groups are typically self-defined, with voluntary membership.
The same is true for public social networks (aka social media). Customers can’t be compelled to give their views on a company’s product or services, for instance. Instead they choose to because they want to and they think they’ve a good chance of being listened to.
This discretionary element also applies internally. An organization can’t compel its employees to form online communities, as these are entities that emerge from the willing use of collaboration systems. Such communities are based on shared knowledge and mutual trust.
An employer might make it compulsory to join a company network but the outcomes would be of poor quality. This happened in the days of groupware in the 1980s and is happening again. You can take a horse to water, etc.
The best an employer can do is encourage the creation of communities by installing a decent social system and managing it well. It’s a probabilistic rather than a deterministic investment. (Most investments are, in truth, but business mythology says the latter are the norm.)
People can collaborate over and between processes, of course, but that’s not necessarily being ‘social’. Computer-mediated collaboration includes online social networking but not all collaboration is social. It’s the voluntary and self-defining aspects of social networking communities that are the keys. You don’t and can’t get those with all collaboration software.
Next is a look at what process management does.
Does any of this make sense to you? Please let me know either way.