My previous post on this topic generated an inquiry which I answered by email as follows:

Does Brockmann think small compagnies don’t really need to implement social networks ? Is it important to mix the simpler technologies to the new ones?

It depends on the goal of the social network technology and who the participants are. Forums for example, are great for any organization since they are aimed at helping customers solve problems with the company’s products. Customers can get tips on how to solve their problem by searching and reading. It’s a very effective ‘support staff multiplier’ and self-service machine that customers are used to and like. Wikis on the other hand, are less useful for small organizations because the administration overheads are more onerous than the productivity benefits. Small organizations tend to be single location offices so there are usually few geographical barriers. Permanent expressions of corporate policies (posters, binders) for example, are easily accessible by all employees.

On the other hand, large global organizations have many people with the same job function in different timezones where physical expressions are a lot harder to keep up-to-date and uniformly available. For large global organizations wikis are very useful. Here they play a big role in employee education on policies, prevent duplicate learning, allow users with common interests to find each other and collaborate in a time-shifting way: you contribute content at your convenience, and I edit/contribute to it at mine.

Is the new technologies the solution for the big enterprises to improve their collaboration ?

Yes. Big enterprises have the biggest barriers with geography, time zones and culture. Normally, coordination across these barriers to achieve some corporate-wide goal such as a new product project is expensive and bureaucratic. Official information flows have tended to be hierarchical which introduces delays and often ‘colors’ the content as it flows up and then then down. Social technologies such as blogs, wikis, forums and maps are really useful in allowing people in different geographies, time zones and cultures to share ideas, project artifacts (memos, presentations, software code, hardware designs) and otherwise provide a ‘Corporate Memory’ function that employees can access at their convenience, without having the bureaucratic problems of the past.

Faster information flow means faster collaboration with higher quality project outcomes and therefore substantial impacts on the competitive success of the firm. The Web 2.0: A New Class of Corporate Memory report highlights these impacts on customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, revenue per employee and other metrics.

Are the pen and whiteboard gonna be used for a long period in enterprise despite the new technologies ?

Oh yes. The pen and whiteboard are great physical tools appropriate for in-person meetings. Writing on the whiteboard makes ideas take a physical form. Writing on paper makes it a permanent expression and quite easy for users to reference at a later time. I have learned from our research on the use of conferencing communications that Face-to-Face meetings are the most frequent meeting class:

  • Web 2.0: A New Class of Corporate Memory report
  • Blogs in Large Companies
  • Wikis in Large Companies
  • Forums in Small CompaniesForums in Large Companies
  • The Rise of Internet-Enabled Social Networks for Business
  • Podcasting Practices and Perspectives for Business
  • Twitter in Business

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