Is Social for the Enterprise Useless?

There is a key difference when we look at social networks in our personal lives (Facebook , Twitter, etc.) and professional lives (LinkedIn) and social networks in an enterprise and that key difference is that enterprises are still primarily concerned with getting work done.

I’ve already given my thoughts on it before: I think enterprise social is more or less useless for most employees in a corporation.

Wired has a good opinion piece on this:

If we sat down and read every email in everyone’s inboxes, took notes in every meeting, lurked in every chat room, and then carefully kept everything up to date, we’d be able to answer questions like, What are all the steps left between now and the next project? Who’s responsible for each step? Which tasks are high priority, and which can wait until later? Where are all the files and conversations needed to do this particular activity?

Or, Why did we decide that thing six months ago that’s affecting what I’m trying to do right now? Heck, What should I be working on right now?

But no one is able to read/note/track/lurk on everything. Even if they could, it’s soul-sucking (at least, it was for me). And this work about work — and the resulting confusion around not knowing what’s expected of us — contributes to disengagement, resulting in billions in lost productivity. Every year.

It seems crazy that 99% of companies lack a single place to track all of this, a definitive source of “truth” about everything they’re working on. Crazier still given that $304 billion will be spent on enterprise software this year, much of it — like enterprise social networks — purporting to solve these problems. The problem with many of these approaches is that they’re just ports of earlier technologies designed for connecting people, not for coordinating work.

Yet there’s a way to work together with less effort, and it requires harnessing the work graph. Whereas a social graph maps people and their relationships, a work graph centers around the work.

I think the bolded is the key; what enterprise needs today isn’t necessarily tools to connect people — there are plenty of those already — but better tools to coordinate work.  What enterprises need is a way to streamline how work gets done and — sure — part of that is connecting the right people, but part of that is being able to then coordinate the effort without introducing too much process friction and overhead.

By and large, most of the teams I work with from Fortune 500 customers and clients as well as tier 1 consulting companies still rely on positively antiquated processes and software to manage coordination of work that are heavily wrought with impedance.  Microsoft Project plans and Excel spreadsheets are some of the absolute worst tools that one could possibly choose for planning, managing, and coordinating modern software projects and yet they are still the bread and butter of many teams (maybe that’s why “On average, large IT projects run 45 percent over budget and 7 percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted“).

I find that most of that is a result of the simple fact that project managers in your typical enterprise project are likely to be more senior folks who moved on up from their prior positions that are somewhat set in their ways and their tools.  Software and how we interact with it has evolved dramatically over the last decade (think about it, Facebook didn’t exist 10 years ago) and yet many project managers have not evolved their thinking and how to utilize more fit-for-purpose software for coordinating work; they have stuck to their guns and carry over legacy Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft Project plans that are simply too unwieldy for fast-paced, day-to-day collaborative execution of work.

Just as cloud infrastructure is beginning to shift how enterprises rethink IT infrastructure, will we see a similar shift in how teams coordinate work?  If it comes, I think it will look far less “social”.

Thinktastic TeamPoint is one crack at solving this problem of coordinating work by integrating chat with real-time notifications linked to project artifacts (tasks, documents, milestones) to create a real-time, contextual, workstream that allows teams to view progress, broadcast status and in-progress work, as well as provide greater visibility into the overall health of the project.

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