The value of knowledge workers has never been higher. Yet as projects become more complex and teams become more dispersed, organizing projects, workers, and content in a meaningful way has become very difficult. A current trend to overcome this challenge is for businesses to use the same “Web 2.0” social ‐ networking techniques that are flourishing in the consumer community.
Corporate social networks are not rigid data repositories; instead they allow team members to gather, organize, manage, and distribute information and knowledge. Inside these customizable information portals, workers can share information about projects, processes, and their subject ‐ matter expertise. In addition, the value of collaboration can be further enhanced by expanding the network to include customers and partners.
Knowledge workers have traditionally relied heavily on email and office productivity applications. Yet in their personal lives, many are already using social computing and Web 2.0 tools. They are easy to use and flexible: having been built specifically to streamline collaboration and communication. For example, in mere minutes, a twelve ‐ year ‐ old can put up a MySpace page that has more functionality than most corporate intranets.
By adopting social networking, work teams become more effective because they are composed of the right members with the right skills, knowledge, and motivation. Now project stakeholders can have a consolidated view of deadlines, milestones, status reports and other project details. Another benefit is the collection and organization of knowledge and even feedback via discussion forums and surveys. Users contribute their knowledge into a medium where it will continue to add value, precisely because it is organized and retained regardless of whether someone later leaves the organization.
For organizations to remain nimble, they need to embrace this shift to using highly flexible social networking tools. This will enable users to collaborate more easily, and allow them to quickly obtain role ‐ appropriate content. It will enable organizations to move beyond rigid top ‐ down information sharing and communication; as the expertise of the organization becomes woven together to become part of the living fabric of that organization’s thriving ecosystem.
Once this chasm is crossed, the true benefits of corporate social networking can be realized: that the right information at the right time is a powerful advantage.