Thursday, November 22, 2007

Convergence of Social Networking in the Entreprise

These are interesting times for fostering collective intelligence in the enterprise. More and more people have taken steps to connect with other people they trust, using one or several social networking platforms of their choice (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing, etc.).

A lot of big corporations are now making forays into building social networking capabilities within the entreprise. For instance, Pfizer was one of the two companies to strike a collaboration deal with Microsoft to explore the potential of Knowledge Network, an entreprise solution for mining emails for keywords, and providing people search capabilities, i.e. the ability to search for people with specific knowledge, skills or talents. I'll expand later on the lessons from that particular initiative, the point here is that the traditional approach to getting social networking capabilities within the firewall has been to either bring in a major provider of software solutions or build a solution from scratch.

The big aha for me has been to realize that the content of social networking does not belong to the companies people work for. It belongs to the people. Therefore, companies would be well advised to get the content where it currently sits; i.e. directly from the social networking platforms of the planet.

That is in this perspective that I am very excited about the recent publication of the OpenSocial API standards, which has the potential to offer social networking content for consumption in the entreprise environment. Just imagine the possibilities: company X gets a view of how its people communicate internally and externally, simply by putting together an aggregated view of all connections made by its employees. In addition, it can develop services that help mine internal data along with people data, or using the wealth of information to initiate fruitful collaborative efforts outside the entreprise.

What's in it for the people? Well, they would not have to maintain yet another profile page and connection data in the company they work for, or have to fill all that over again when they change companies. And more importantly, they would keep ownership of their profile page and connections data and bring that to the company they work for as part of their intrinsic worth.

What do you think?

Links of interest:
Explaining OpenSocial to your Executives by Jeremiah Owyang
Google OpenSocial will (hopefully) make social apps more relevant by Charlene Li
OpenSocial: it's the data, stupid by Tim O'Reilly
(I do not share Tim's misgiving about OpenSocial's ability to share data. Some comments are quite interesting to read)
OpenSocial: a new universe of open applications all over the web by Marc Andreessen

Post update at 1:48 pm:
I just came across this article that goes in the direction I was hinting:
Enterprise Social Computing by Jon Williams
I will check the Alfresco WCM platform closely. As a matter of fact, in a completely separate stream of work, I've made contact with folks at Knowings, a French firm who have a partnership agreement with Alfresco. Connections come around...