Someday we’ll find it, the corporate connection… the workers, the dreamers and me.

In this post we will continue looking at Niall Cook’s 4Cs. Last time we looked at ‘Communication’ and how it can be used in an Enterprise sense. Today we will look Connection. It has the same level of interaction but in a more formal setting. Here we see functions such as tagging, mash-ups and social networking. So what do all these things actually mean to a business owner or professional? What value can these consumer ‘toys’ possibly add?

Lets start with tagging. We already see this in Knowledge Management (KM) systems and it has been around for a while. The internal owner of the system will create a taxonomy that is meaningful and tag these keywords onto the records to aid in the retrieval of documents, files or other items. What we quite often see though is a set of words that hold meaning for the creator and maybe a handful of other people only. The average employee doesn’t necessarily relate to the chosen tags. When we post items to say or flickr in our private lives we get to choose the tags that mean something to us right so why not in our work lives too. We are now starting to see this trend emerge in social KM systems. Known as folksonomy, its sits in tandem with the traditional ‘top-down’ taxonomy and allows users to tag records with words that mean something to them. I use SharePoint Server 2007  in my professional life and one of the big drivers for me to upgrade to SharePoint 2010 is the ability for users to create their own tags. The desire to search and locate knowledge easily based on what they relate to the item as has been a loud and constant message from the staff – I say lets move them from search and allow discovery with folksonomy tagging.

So what about mash-ups. Generally speaking a mash-up is as the name suggests a coming together of disparate or loosely-linked data sources into one that has added value. For example if I am a national sales manager I can access my sales volume from my CRM system in a number of different ways. I can also access the Statistics NZ website and get population densities across cities or regions. Both sources of information are valuable in their own right, but if I mash them together and visually show on a map the population AND the sales I can immediately see areas of opportunities or areas of concern. John Crupi over at TechNewsWorld sums up Enterprise mashups really well

Like anything that wants to have the moniker of “Web 2.0,” mashups are about the user and by the user. Mashups allow users to self-connect the proverbial data dots to create information that answers their questions.

Finally Social networking. The two words that are likely to send CEOs running to secure the firewall. When you mention Social Media, this is what people think of. Yes, this is the Facebooks and Twitters of the world. So what place do they have in an organisation? The same place they have outside it. Its all about connecting people with people and giving them a place to share ideas. Companies such as Social Text, Yammer and even Microsoft with SharePoint 2010 have created these ‘Facebook-like’ applications that sit inside an organisation, can be secured by IT policy and managed like any other Enterprise-grade platform. With them people can micro-blog, share photos, status updates and connect with like-minded colleagues.

 I  am a strong advocate for these platforms as I believe it gives a safe entrance into using the same type of technology externally for extremely risk-adverse businesses. Love to hear your thoughts on how you see them working inside an organisation, or why you think they have no place being deployed.

Are you being social with your co-workers?

In the last post we looked at social media from an externally facing perspective using things like You Tube, Facebook and Twitter to engage with external consumers. But what about your internal consumers? Are you being as sociable with them as you can (or should) be?

Communications within an organisation tend to be asynchronous and often top-down – the CEO sending a ‘proclamation from the ivory tower’ to the minions announcing a decision or a strategy is all-too-common. Michael Fauscette commented on the phenomenon of information overload where employees do not have proper collaborative tools and how traditional information systems were designed for information capture, not sharing. Think about the file structure of a network drive. A network server will have folders that are shared, but unless you have permission you cannot access the files contained in them. Sure there are things the general workforce should not see such as payroll information but a large amount of other content may benefit from a more collaborative approach.

There are a number of tools that organisations can deploy internally, such as Microsoft Sharepoint, Yammer and Ning all with funny names that make it a hard sell to CFOs and CEOs but that can deliver value to a business. Aristocrat are an organisation that have realised the power that social media can bring, deploying Yammer globally and now seeing people in the company that ordinarily would not contribute engaging and collaborating. Dion Hinchcliffe over at ZDNet has an interesting series on Enterprise 2.0 success stories that are well worth a read and they highlight how powerful the openness of social media can be.

The only thing that seems to be stopping wider adoption of social media in organisations is culture, more specifically a culture that sees power in knowledge ownership, of control of the information flow. Staff engagement seems to be a hot topic at the moment, with a number of companies I have spoken to highlighting it as a focus for the year. The consensus is getting staff engaged with the business is key to growth. How do we expect them to get engaged if we filter and block their access to the business through out-dated attitudes and risk-maps.The infographics below is from David Armano’s blog about the weaving of social into the organisations DNA and for me sums up what needs to occur for mainstream adoption.

Social Media cannot be an ‘IT-thing’ or a ‘Marketing-thing’. It needs to be seen not as a gimmick but as a value-adding platform that enhances the workplace and allows staff to be engaged. Imagine if there was a way to remove the workplace silos, where everyone had an equal voice and could share their problems and ideas. Who knows, little Mary the intern in finance may just have the next big product idea. Tom in HR might just have the solution to a budgeting issue or an ad placement. If only they knew there was a problem in the first place….

Time for the old guard determined to maintain a top-down command-and-control attitude to leave? I think so.