Tips for Social Computing in the Enterprise

Implementing Web 2.0 tools can lead to better collaboration and productivity at your business, higher levels of employee engagement. The tools also can help you attract the next generation of workers. These tips can help you get started--and also get out of the way.

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Managing the Social Organization

Observing Without Disturbing

The attraction of social computing is also its challenge. It thrives because it is highly participatory, self-defining, self-directing, emergent and viral. It does not grow along a prescribed axis. Communities form around seeds of ideas that grow over time into larger patterns. If a group senses that it is being observed (and relied upon for output), there is the danger that interactions will become too self-conscious.

Use of social computing cannot be mandated; it must simply be facilitated. Once the mechanics are in place to support social computing, the content produced through user interaction is treated like other content in the organization. It must be indexed and searchable, making it easy for users to discover information and engage with it. Reasonable arm's length policies regarding content and style will also allow the voice of the group to reach equilibrium on its own. In order to achieve the best results, enterprise social computing must retain the perceived freedom of the Web.

Provide Executive Leadership, But Stay out of the Way

CIOs are responsible for making sure that the corporate environment supports the paradigm shifts accompanying E2.0. They are responsible for infrastructure investments that constitute the E2.0 platform. They must establish standards and enforce boundaries when required. They may even take part in the communities as they emerge. But CIOs must also realize that their direct presence in those communities can have a muting effect (the celebrity factor).

One way for senior executives to be effectively engaged with E2.0 is to keep active blogs of their own. This will provide IT staff with valuable insights into their leadership. At the end of the day, CIOs set strategic directions that are "worked out" in the E2.0 communities populated by their employees.

Chris Howard is vice president and director of the Executive Advisory Program at the Burton Group. He is a former university professor with more that 16 years of IT consulting experience.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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