Sunday, November 15, 2009

Social Media in the Workplace? You bet!

There is healthy debate about the appropriateness of Social Media in the workplace. Many skeptics perceive Social Media as a diversion for youth and young adults, a modern channel for chit chat with little substance. They may consider Social Media as part of their marketing strategies for reaching targeted demographics, but not a communication medium suitable for the seriousness of work. 

Historical parallels to the original web may be drawn.  Back in the heyday of client/server software the suggestion of a browser client for a corporate application was often met with scorn. The Mosaic browser was the application for surfing the World Wide Web where young people checked their stocks, visited Star Trek pages or worse. The Mosaic browser was not appropriate for the viewing of corporate data.

Yet the browser as a front end to an n-tier architecture quickly became the standard for IT infrastructures. People soon did serious work and engaged in commercial transactions using a browser.  This was driven by the significant efficiencies in developing applications based on n-tier architectures and the productivity gains achieved by their users.

The history of business is written by those who adopted technology and processes that increased productivity. The adoption of Social Media in the workplace will be primarily driven by the productivity gains achieved. The preferences of a younger generation, the cool or wow factors, and the freshness of this new medium matter little.

And how can Social Media increase productivity? By demonstrating the following gains beyond dispute:
  1. Increasing the speed and quality at which knowledge is captured. 
  2. Reducing the time to find knowledge and to deliver value.
  3.  Increasing the capabilities of teams to deliver value primarily by leveraging knowledge.

Corporate knowledge is out there. Unfortunately it is often in the heads of employees, partners and customers, or perhaps on their respective laptops, but wherever it may be, it is not somewhere that is easy to find or leverage. Companies must deliver value by effectively managing complexity and coordinating the activities of distributed teams. In a competitive environment the team that can do this faster and more efficiently will win. Social Media properly deployed and employed in the workplace can significantly increase productivity by overcoming these challenges.

In upcoming blog posts I will build the case for Social Media in the workplace on the basis of increased productivity.

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