Social software and collaborative tools in the enterprise extend the reach of an organisation’s collective knowledge deeper into the knowledge of its employees as individuals. This collective knowledge crowdsourcing can have a huge impact on productivity. While this can be a great addition, social collaboration needs to be factored into an all-encompassing enterprise knowledge management strategy, and supported by effective enterprise search.
Looking for an enterprise search solution? Here's what you need to know...
Enterprise 2.0 Push to Social
Enterprise social software is now in use in most companies at some capacity, whether in customer or partner relations, or as an internal tool(2). Enterprise 2.0 is commonly attributed to organisations leveraging Web 2.0 technologies in a business capacity. Both of these definitions have some malleability, and trying to pin either the definition of Enterprise 2.0 or Web 2.0 in one or two sentences is nigh impossible. There is a great discussion included in this AIIM report as to the definition of Enterprise 2.0 and to some extent Web 2.0. It is safe to say that a large component of Web 2.0 is the emergence of low-barrier interaction and publishing tools. Enterprise 2.0 employs these interactive web technologies internally with the aim to promote a more social and open culture.
Social Information Sharing
Although these definitions refer to the particulars of technology, the essence of Enterprise 2.0 is more about the creation of a culture, not just deploying a new productivity tool. Humans are social creatures, who thrive on interaction with others. It is therefore an obvious case that promoting a social work climate should create a happier work environment for employees. The focus of enterprise social technologies, however, lies somewhere else. Promotion of an open social environment increases information availability. Information is one of the key assets of every company. From this, it can be inferred that any relevant information that is bound up in an inaccessible location when it is needed constitutes assets that are not being fully leveraged.
Collaboration tools aim to encourage knowledge dissemination amongst users. Ideally, enterprise social tools propagate this disbursement of peer information across the company network. Essentially, the intention of enterprise social interaction is a means of coaxing out uncatalogued information residing within an organisation by making employees aware of who possesses the relevant knowledge and how they themselves can contribute to the tasks of others.
Collaboration Tools or Enterprise Search?
All of the above, and much more benefits are a case for social networking in the enterprise, but what we are looking at, at a fundamental level, is a holistic and abstracted information retrieval strategy. Any increase in the flow of relevant information in a company is a gain, and employees are often an untapped source of valuable information. Employing methods to leverage this potential is important. It has resulted in a large and profitable enterprise social software industry, with widespread usage. Enterprise social tools however, should be recognised and implemented as a complement to and extension of an information retrieval strategy. The reason a lot of enterprise search implementations fail is a failure to recognise that a software tool is not the entirety of the solution. A culture of search and information awareness around enterprise search will create a solution of lasting value.
In the same sense however, a strategy will not work effectively for want of a robust enterprise search tool. An ideal enterprise social tool fosters an information leveraging mindset in employees, of crowdsourcing information for their tasks and similarly, an awareness of others tasks and the applicability of their skills to their peers’ work. Enterprise social networks however, are limited to searching within people, and even then, only those who actively engage with the tool. There is still plenty of data stuck in databases that in only practical to access with enterprise search.
To truly make use of an organisations information assets, it is not just important to create a knowledge aware culture, but also to provide employees with powerful, far-reaching enterprise search. Enterprise search should be approached with a holistic strategy, so that data locked away, whether structured, unstructured or residing in an employees mind, becomes part of your enterprise search solution.