Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Enterprise Social Network - What's Holding Up The Adoption?

As Facebook gathers more steam to become over-one-billion dollar revenue company, there are still no clear winner in enterprise space. Granted that enterprise is usually the last to jump on board with new technology, experts are spelling out reasons why adoption of social network will be slower than what we saw before with email and IM.

Some of you may have already seen the report from Nielsen that email communication has been outpaced by social network in general public. If social network is so popular, why is that we are not seeing as steep adoption in enterprise?

Dion Hinchcliffe's Beautiful Chart
Illustrating Social Network Adoption Stage
Dion Hinchcliffe, CTO of Hinchcliffe & Company, ran a nice article albeit a bit dated. He listed out 10 reasons why he felt enterprise is slow to adopt social network in its work environment:

1. Lack of social media literacy amongst workers
2. A perception that social tools won’t work well in a particular industry
3. Social software is still perceived as too risky to use for core business activities
4. Can’t get enough senior executives engaged with social tools
5. There is vapor lock between IT and the social computing initiative
6. Need to prove ROI before there will be support for social software
7. Security concerns are holding up pilot projects/adoption plans
8. The needs around community management have come as a surprise
9. Difficulties sustaining external engagement
10. Struggling to survive due to unexpected success

Noting that he published his list July 2009, there might be a few things that he would revise if he had a chance (I see #1 as good candidate for revision now that Facebook has almost doubled its user base during 2009). But by in large, I think his points are still true today for most enterprises.

What's surprising is that I still hear enterprise holding up social networking adoption because of data security and information sharing concerns: Data security because enterprise is nervous about opening up internal resources to external crowds in decentralized manner, not to mention hosting their IP in remote clouds most likely, and information sharing because social network makes sharing information so easy with microblogging and real-time push model.

Hey, wait a second. Weren't they the reasons FOR social network? Easy information sharing without any boundary and data access from anywhere are the key features of social network. It's like saying we cannot use email because it's way too fast to stop and recall my accidental messages (I'm sure everyone has real-life examples of these horror story), or like saying IM is too distractive because it interrupts my train of thought when it pops up the alert at the bottom of my screen.

All tools have its right purpose. Email is great at sending message to one or group of people with context. IM is great at finding people, and getting a quick answer without tying up the person's schedule. Social network, in the similar token, is great at connecting people, and lowering the cost of sharing information and collaborating with half-dozen to thousands of people.

I have to think that in near future we'll look at these objections and say, 'gee, those reasons sure look dumb today.'

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