Enterprise social media. Does it really make a difference?

role of network hub leaderThe horrific events of September 11th and their aftermath, including war, restricted mobility, big government, and fear. The banking crisis, crippled economies, the shift of economic power to the East, pandemic flu, climate change, peak oil, the war on terror, the emergence of social networks the size of continents, a black US president. When will things get back to normal? They are. This is the new normal.

Business and government aren’t structured or designed to cope with this rate of change and it’s apparent even to ‘the man in the street’ they’ve struggled to understand, react and adapt to a seemingly endless stream of social, economic and political crises, many of which don’t even arise in their own countries.

In business, entire industry sectors have seen much of their value destroyed by upstarts using cheap, open source technology, offshore software development and financial support from visionary venture capitalist firms. Some parts of the media industry in particular have experienced massive destruction in value, most significantly by the omnipresence of file sharing networks. TV, print and broadcast based advertising in general are in decline and the next generation of consumers simply aren’t interested in it, almost exclusively preferring peer recommendation. Even the porn industry has been eclipsed by social networks and social media sites, now the most visited web sites on the planet.

Mass action and mass participation enabled by internet mediated social software has forced political u-turns, embarrassing corporate climb downs, regime change, and put presidents into office. The biggest story of the 21st century is the realisation that a 2000 year old model of centralised, command and control organisation is unable to adapt to an ‘outside world’ that is increasingly network centric and decentralised. It isn’t fit for purpose. It’s that simple.

Productive professionals make big enterprises competitive, yet these employees increasingly find their work obstructed. Creating and exchanging tacit knowledge through interaction with their professional peers internally and externally is ‘what they do’. Yet most of them squander endless hours searching for the knowledge and access to people they need, even when it resides in their own companies.

Mckinsey reported in 2005, “Each upsurge in the number of professionals who work in a company leads to an almost exponential—not linear—increase in the number of potential collaborators and unproductive interactions. Many leading companies now employ 10,000 or more professionals, who have some 50 million potential bilateral relationships. The same holds true for knowledge: searching for it means trying to find the person in whose head it resides, because most companies lack working “knowledge markets.”

One measure of the difficulty of this quest is the volume of global corporate e-mail, up from about 1.8 billion a day in 1998 to more than 17 billion a day in 2004. As finding people and knowledge becomes more difficult, social cohesion and trust among professional colleagues declines, further reducing productivity”.

This essay makes the case for the role of a Super Connector in large organisations whose sole responsibility is to create the same levels of connectivity, collaboration and productivity achieved by open source movements, conversational software and social media platforms. It recognises the need for evolution rather than revolution and most importantly describes the end game, the end state; and the implications for leadership, employees, revenue, stakeholder return and market valuation.

Author : Leon Benjamin

Leon helps companies manage change and have a twenty-year successful track record of complex, multi-project delivery, and the creation of business and technology strategy, in financial services, telecommunications and retail. Unusual ability to straddle business and IT disciplines and comfortable with the detail in each. Passionate about value driven performance cultures, leadership, the power of community and the culturally sensitive treatment of people. Recent assignments with Aviva, Tesco, Argos and Carphone Warehouse.

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