Don Hawkins posed three trivia questions this morning. The answers were given in the first few minutes of a panel session on the value of social networking to 21st century organizations. If you had any doubts about the take-up of Web 2.0 technologies in today’s corporate world, ponder on the answers:
• Over 3,000 individual employees blog at Microsoft.
• IBM has 15,000 bloggers.
• 70,000 IBM workers contribute to wikis.
Do you need any more evidence that social networking software is being taken seriously by the largest of international companies?
We’ve all attended sessions where the ‘early adopters’ of some new technology or other have preached corporate salvation, if only we’d all get on the right bandwagon. But this panel gave some real insights on how important social networking software is, right now, in the cold, hard world of corporate reality. And for good measure, some great examples from the worlds of high school education and small business as well.
A few examples:
Any Microsoft employee can blog a bright idea that can be seen by all employees, including Bill Gates. Assessment, feedback and adoption of good ideas are all now much faster.
Microsoft internal reports are more easily shared – company wide.
IBM has a personnel directory that is tagged by the employees themselves. Individual expertise is readily identified and validated by the community.
IBM uses podcasts to distribute information to its 340,000 employees around the world, in all time zones. By using podcasts to replace expensive international conference calls IBM calculates that significant telecommunication costs have been saved and bureaucratic internal IT procedures have been circumvented.
Ewan McIntosh works for a publicly-funded educational research body in Scotland. While fully appreciating the cost savings of creating new educational resources using low cost or even free open source software, he noted that public funding bodies can be suspicious when budgets are not fully spent. Nonetheless, Ewan is fully committed.
Ewan has worked with schools to get children blogging when travelling on school trips and visits. He’s had them publishing blogs, videos and games as well as learning about the technology itself. It may be difficult to quantify the benefits, he said, but at least it’s not so hard to get the kids to attend school now. And they enjoy attending too!
Alex Bellinger, Audacious Communications sees social software as something that enables all workers in a company to adopt new communication and working methods, not just the few techies who were happy to create websites in the 90s. As an early champion of podcasting in the UK he’s a firm believer that social software liberates users.
For these panellists, there’s no going back. The key is to convince users that a blog or wiki is designed to save them time and aid collaboration, not to add to their information overload.