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Social Intranets for the Enterprise: Where Vision and Result Don’t Usually Align

Social computing is not a fad. And it’s certainly not something to be dismissed as a youthful or consumer oriented hobby. More and more evidence is coming forward to support it as a new fundamental of company “intranets” — and we aren’t just talking about media sharing and social networking here.

For those unfamiliar with the term, social computing has to do with supporting any sort of social behavior through computers. It is based on creating or recreating social conventions and contexts that exist in the real world through the use of software and technology. Organizations are becoming increasingly dependent on dynamic ecosystems (team collaborations through file sharing and open resources) and rapid innovation to streamline their operations; as a result, traditional roles are shifting within organizations. Even when it comes to achieving simplistic business goals such as training or productivity improvements, social computing can help your employees, customers, partners and prospects connect.

The problem many companies face in this area is they try to build a Ferrari out of a Pinto. They choose an off-the-shelf solution instead of looking to develop something to suit their unique needs. Ultimately, by trying to save time or money upfront, they end up with something that is slow to deploy, difficult to configure, expensive and, most importantly, that their employees despise and are reluctant to engage with. They then sit back scratching their heads wondering why their vision never came to fruition. We aren’t saying you need to buy a Ferrari, just don’t expect your Pinto to perform in the same way either.

While the social computing moniker is a relatively recent development, sociological and psychological studies on relationships between individuals, group behavior and their impacts on business have been around for nearly a century. Decades of IT advances have been rooted in improved productivity and collaboration?enabling communications, automating interactions and allowing discovery and sharing. The difference today is in the near-universal connectedness of organizational teams, vastly improved access to tools and the usability of the platforms.

To avoid being left behind, purposeful investments are becoming commonplace and existing processes and hierarchies are being mindfully shaped to accommodate the dynamic pace of change. The most significant aspect of social computing is the fact that it gives a voice and a sense of importance to each individual within an organization, rather than a sense of anonymity. In our hyper-social landscape it allows companies to link people, who are, in the end, linked to other people. A simple concept with invaluable implications for your business.