Vice President of Forrester Research Explains What’s Driving Enterprise Social Network Adoption

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This week we had the pleasure of listening to two thought leaders in the field of social computing: Rob Koplowitz, Vice President at Forrester Research; and Randy Wagner, Drilling Advisor and Knowledge Manager at Apache Corp. Rob and Randy joined us for a webinar on knowledge management and the adoption of enterprise social. Today we’re sharing Rob’s discussion on the macro trends driving adoption of social in the enterprise and next week we’ll be sharing Randy’s presentation on Apache’s approach to implementing enterprise social, how it accelerated information sharing and ultimately cut trouble costs.

Here are some highlights from Rob’s presentation on why organizations need enterprise-ready internal social networking:

Knowledge is a huge differentiator: “Better management to knowledge, is something that will be able to differentiate my organization, make me fundamentally more efficient than my competition.”

Integration with systems: “Systems don’t talk to humans very well. … The information in those systems is under utilized by knowledge workers. And, we’ve been looking for a really long time for the appropriate distribution for that information and increasingly that looks like an activity stream. The connections of backend-line of business systems and operational transactional systems out to the work that’s being done by knowledge workers… represents a huge potential knowledge gap that’s filled by social, and one quite frankly, that TIBCO is in a very unique position to serve.”

Business focused collaboration via subjects: Rob mentioned some of the subjects Apache used for collaboration in their enterprise social network: inventory management, material master data and market intelligence. “These are down and dirty business functions that require expertise. And, in instances where experts self-identify who has the information that was not previously available for those making decisions, there was potential for massive upside opportunity, or, in the case of people who drill oil, the ability to avoid a potentially dangerous situation. So these subjects are continually business focused.”

Cross-regional Collaboration: “We’re talking about geography. I’ve got designers in North America, Engineering in Europe, manufacturing in Asia. [Forrester Research] is a worldwide organization now. And this is increasingly the norm not the exception. How do these groups work together, how do they collaborate across geographic boundaries? We do teleconferences, we send a lot of email, but really the ability to leverage expertise and content across all of these groups is difficult to do today. … We need to be able to fulfill that boundary, and again, enterprise social is a great way to be able to cross organizational boundaries.”

Appeals to the New Generation of Workers: “One old knowledge management problem is the retiring workforce. 10,000 employees will turn 65 today. We have the largest cohort of workers in the history of the US workforce and they’re leaving. They’re actively retiring and being replaced by the generation Y that’s coming in.  As they’re leaving they don’t have good documentation on what they do. … When we look at organizations that embrace social networking, they have more open and transparent communication. … On-boarding of new employees takes a fraction of the time as against those folks that are not using social communication. Why? Because my communications are more open, I can mine them, they’re in the context of particular subjects.”

Who’s really using this?  Rob mentions how employees with the need for information, those with the “need for a rapid and collective action, are embracing this technology at a much higher rate.” He adds, “Younger folks are a little more likely, but not as big of an indicator as the folks that need to get their job done more efficiently. If you can find a place to apply social that makes peoples jobs better and more efficient, they will embrace it.”

The Need for Activity Streams on Mobile Devices: “To store an activity stream, not only from people but from data coming from systems … a mobile device is an interesting form factor because it’s so easy to consume information in a mobile device through an activity stream.”

Whether it’s a sales rep who needs an answer before going into a meeting with a client or a drilling adviser who needs to know if other employees have seen a similar problem with a machine, the business value of enterprise social collaboration is apparent to employees that need fast access to information. Rob explained, “Where human latency is involved, social technology has a huge potential for closing knowledge gaps.”