Sunday, September 18, 2011

Newtech: enterprise social networks

Like email, instant messaging, and wikis, the latest newtech spreading into businesses is social networks, essentially serving as a private internal version of Facebook and Twitter. Enterprise social networks are used for a number of purposes, first and foremost, status updates to work teams, but also for real-time messaging with colleagues including document transfer, broadcast announcements, and opinion capture via polls. There are several companies in the enterprise social software sector (Gartner chart). Among the most vibrant are Yammer and Chatter (affiliated with salesforce) each of which has over 100,000 corporate customers in a wide range of industries from finance to entertainment to professional sports; Jive is a third large company in the space. The standard pricing model appears to be freemium-based, free for light-users and $5/seat/month for power users. Enterprise social networks are typically externally-hosted.

Two of the key challenges that come to mind with enterprise social software are: consolidation with other internal communications platforms and data mining. As with enterprise instant messaging, archival and retrieval is important, both at the personal level (for productivity) and organization level (for information systems backup and compliance). There need to be effective ways to consolidate and mine multi-platform internal communications. Formalizing the explosion of casual interaction as it naturally occurs could be abstracted into value-added tools such as a codification of internal knowledge and expertise in the internal wiki for training purposes. It might also be possible to integrate communication flows unobtrusively and automatically into prediction markets or other sentiment analysis algorithms to capture opinion about key upcoming events like product launches and quarterly sales results.

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