So many good reasons to be social in the enterprise


We've been watching the evolution of enterprise social software over the last several years and we have seen a number of positive outcomes from this approach--and so many reasons to take the plunge.

First of all, when you put in social tools you provide a communications mechanism that allows people to communicate across departments and up and down hierarchies. Whereas an employee might never have stirred up the courage to go visit an executive in the C-suite offices, he or she is much more likely to communicate with an executive and offer ideas in a more informal social enterprise setting where artificial barriers are removed.

That is bound to lead to a freer exchange of ideas which can have a couple of positive results. First of all, it encourages free-flowing debate, especially if management is on board with this approach. Employees can test ideas in a more open forum than traditional management hierarchies would have allowed or encouraged, and this can lead to more developed ideas or provide a way to float ideas and see what happens--and reject bad ones while encouraging the development of the better ones.

Secondly, this can lead to identifying experts. As the discussion broadens, people can begin to see which individuals inside the organization possess certain expertise and this can help as employees build teams and look for ways to solve problems in a given project. As you build a list of people you follow, you can see which ones have expertise in a particular area and you can draw them into a conversation as needed.

Thirdly, it provides a way to collect knowledge in a natural flow of information. As Susan Landry, a Gartner analyst who spoke at the recent YamJam Yammer user conference put it, "Knowledge Capture is one of the next frontiers of the social networking." She says, it's impossible to understand what you know or don't know until you are in the midst of working. And the beauty of enterprise social is that you are capturing that knowledge as part of the flow of work.

And all of this can have the happy outcome of fostering innovation and giving companies that kind of startup mentality so many are looking for to keep from growing stale or complacent. A recent study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and sponsored by Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) , found (according to a statement) "Many companies are not effectively capitalizing on internal resources that could foster innovation. Successful innovators welcome ideas from employees in every department. But creating this kind of openness is a major challenge for  many companies, especially larger firms, which are more likely to silo their innovation than smaller firms."

What that statement says to me is you can build that kind of innovative atmosphere by providing the tools to encourage it and break down hierarchies and communications silos--and enterprise social tools seem to match up with this very well.

There are so many happy outcomes from making your company more social, it should be a business imperative at this point. If you want to communicate better, foster ideas, identify experts, capture knowledge and foster innovation, there are tools from a number of vendors that can help you do this. What are you waiting for? - Ron