April 26, 2011

Social Network Applications Coming To Your Business-Will there be a Rypple effect?

Here's a scoop. Companies like Rypple are making “Facebook-style” applications to be used in your business. The Wall Street Journal Digital Edition has an excellent article by Dr. Terri Griffith on this phenomenon. ( full article) With over 600 million users on Facebook and LinkedIn combined, people around the globe now understand the power of status updates, and sharing comments, pictures, and videos, instantly online. Social business applications use an underlying philosophy of open and easy information exchange and are applying it to personnel matters, project management, and collaborative learning and team innovation. I mentioned these new social-style tools recently in a DRED meeting with a CEO, a corporate counsel, and 3 department managers who were in charge of data compliance, and the response was unanimous...”UGH!” How could they possibly manage all this data? But it doesn't have to be so bad and in fact, if implemented properly, these social business tools may actually improve the way your company manages your electronically stored information.

It was great to see Dr. Terri Griffith's article in the Wall Street Journal digital edition, and not just because she has referenced this blog in past writings. The transformation of personal home technology toys into business tools at the office is not new. Noticed any iPhones at work lately? It may have begun as the favorite toy for uber-geeks but it, and similarly, Android smart phones, have made their way into the office as business productivity tools, often replacing the old standard tool, the Blackberry.

There are legitimate concerns to social business. What about your DRED practices?  Does anyone understand how these applications will work with data retention policies and electronic discovery?  How will they be backed up or locked down for a legal hold?  Is it worthwhile to re-work retention and computer policies to allow social business?  Is social business even a legitimate business tool?

While some may argue that these social business applications are too simple to afford any real help at the office, I disagree.   Historically, more technology has failed in business because user-adoption never grew due to the software being too complex and difficult to use.  As Dr. Griffith reported, "about half of company knowledge-management initiatives stagnate or fail." Simple tools that actually work are adopted at a higher rate and therefore, can lead to a much better increase in productivity.  This is especially true when compared to those elaborate tools that were never rolled out and are sitting on the shelf collecting dust.

When you begin reviewing social business tools, you will notice that the user interfaces are very straightforward and easy to learn.  Consider Facebook.  There are many grandparents and parents, with little or no computer experience, now enjoying communicating with their families and friends on Facebook. Even computer newbies can snap a picture on their phone, and click the button to “share.” Simple works, but it can be very productive too.

Back to the office.  Imagine being able to review a marketing campaign that includes a web page, a video, pictures, and maybe some sound bites, all on one web page in an application?  Pretty neat. And, it is far more efficient then having to download separate email attachments to your computer and open them with separate programs to view them.  Plus, co-workers can post their comments right there, under the picture or video. No longer will you have to review the comments buried in tens of emails from 6 co-workers, all desiring to share their thoughts. Sure sounds like a productivity tool now, doesn't it?

There will be challenges to “social business.” Open communications with peers will need to be balanced against security, privacy, and privilege concerns. You will need well crafted and thoughtful user policies. But, there are definite advantages in the design of many social business networking applications that will make adhering to a corporate data retention policy ultimately easier and more effective, than with many of those other "old-school" technologies, like email...

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