The Pushmi-Pullyu of Enterprise 2.0 Social Networking

The new software segment of social networking for enterprises developed because organizations, especially companies and government, recognize that their staff may want to use tools like Facebook and twitter, but are concerned about the associated security and compliance risks.

It is strange then that most of these Enterprise 2.0 social networking applications have subsequently developed integrations with those same consumer Web 2.0 tools that were of concern in the first place!

I wonder why this is?

One explanation is that developers of enterprise social network tools are getting caught up emulating what is going on with consumer tools:

  • Each is trying to be the preferred site by enabling users to do everything from their site. As consumers 'flit' between social networking services looking for the next big thing, it's hard to keep them without adding new features – either by building analogs to proven tools, or partnering and integrating with the leaders. Meanwhile, aggregation services allow users to post to many social sites at once, or the receive feeds from many sites – thereby allowing users to avoid visiting the sites at all. Watching this it must be hard not to do the same!

But aren't enterprise 2.0 software vendors missing the point? Enterprises that buy into the value proposition of 'social networking without the risks,' are not likely to open their door to the tools they rejected, even just to help their staff unidirectionally monitor the latest external posts.

On the flip side, in most cases there can be no surety that staff are not finding a way to use those consumer tools at work, despite whatever policy or technology-blocking approaches are taken. There are just too many sites, too many tools available and such rapid change, and outright bans lead to circumvention. Then of course staff will be using the tools in their personal lives.

So where does this leave us?

At some level much of the new style of social networking is an effort to replace email as a communications medium. For some time email management tools have been available to help companies achieve compliance. These tools usually capture and index all enterprise communications in a manner that supports both controlled destruction and future discovery.

  • Email management for compliance is an outgrowth of traditional content management for compliance. In many ways emails are special content types – usually with less content, more versions (especially including multiple branches or threads) and fewer controls on access (especially because of email forwarding).

In the same manner, social networking tools allow users to create even larger numbers of smaller pieces of content, often with more versioning, and with especially complex relationships that define context and therefore meaning.

  • For example what I say in through IM or microblogs can only be understood in context, whereas emails and especially documents are larger, more complete and often able to be understood largely in isolation.

While organizations once blocked staff from using email to mitigate risks, email access is now nearly universal in the workplace – but it is managed. Certain tools are selected and sanctioned and staff must use those.

I believe that in the same manner, enterprises will inevitably permit selected social networking tools (some enterprise and some consumer) once appropriate control technologies are applied to assure lifecycle management for compliance.

So Enterprise 2.0 vendors don't need to enable interface integration with consumer web 2.0 tools, but rather capture and control integration with enterprise records repositories.


  1. I have to ask you what integration points are you reffering to.
    I assume that organization integration with tools like twitter is to give an audiance to the company rather then enabling free speach to company users and the same can be said about using the facebook and its counterparts as a marketing and media tool for companies.
    Thus these integrations are not related to Enterprise 2.0 implementations in the conventional way but are an adoption of marketing tools for the web 2.0.
    I assume that these tools are not iused in internal communication.
    Yuval Ararat

  2. Thanks for your comment. I have seen a number of 'internal communication' tools as you would describe them integrate with twitter, Facebook, etc. which defeats their aim IMO. IN contrast, clearly marketing tools are used by a subset of staff (marketing, etc.), and there is no reason I see that they need to be integrated with the internal communication tools. Marketing staff an happily login to consumer web 2.0 tools and sites as required, independent of their internal communication activities.