Is it time to join the enterprise social network?

“The enterprise social networking market is not what it once was.”

The enterprise social networking market is not what it once was.

A couple of years ago, Richard Edwards, research analyst, Ovum analysed 13 products and identified a common theme of “providing a Facebook for the enterprise.”

Today, as the genre crosses over from visionary early adopters to the pragmatic early majority, vendors appear to be pointing their products in various different directions.

“Consider this question if you are a business leader,” Edwards asks.

“What percentage of employees are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace?”

Gallup’s US Employee Engagement survey (based on daily telephone interviews with 1,500 employees) currently places this figure at around 30 per cent.

To put it more bluntly, Edwards says 70 per cent of US workers are not engaged at work.

“This figure will of course vary from one organisation to another, and even more so globally, but the business challenge is clear to see for those employers who dare to look,” he adds.

As explained by Edwards, those familiar with Ovum’s research on the customer-adaptive enterprise will appreciate the link between workforce engagement and customer satisfaction.

“It is a matter of fact, not debate, that one begets the other,” he claims.

“Management gurus point to a variety of reasons why employees fail to engage in the workplace, with one of the most fundamental issues being a lack of reason or purpose.

“As one climbs the organisational ladder this turns into “corporate dissonance,” a lack of common agreement or understanding of the organisation’s vision and reason for being.

“The result: office politics and management fiefdoms.”

To address these issues, Edwards believes business leaders need a medium to help them articulate their vision (the “why”) to managers, employees, investors, partners, and customers.

Going forward, Edwards adds that managers also need a medium that will help them better communicate mission instructions (the “how” and the “what”) to employees.

“To close the loop, employees clearly need a medium to provide feedback and insight from the field or frontline of the organisation,” he adds. “The enterprise social network, in whatever form it might take, provides this.”

For Edwards, enterprise social networking products have adapted and evolved significantly over the last five years, especially when compared with the initial blueprint provided by Facebook et al.

“This reaffirms the notion that the world of work is very different to that of leisure,” he adds.

“Acquisitions, mergers, and product realignments have changed the trajectory of many products in this market, yet most are still trying to find that perfect path; one that is able to unify enterprise communication, collaboration, ideation, and participation.

“Let it be known: there is no single, perfect path.”

Consequently, Edwards believes business and IT leaders should together look for a vendor approach that is in keeping with the size, nature, and maturity of the organisation.

Think of it, Edwards says, as the “venue” for your “corporate performance”.

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