Larry Cannell

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Larry Cannell
Research Director
6 years at Gartner
29 years IT industry

Larry Cannell is a Research Director in the Gartner for Technical Professionals Collaboration and Content Strategies service. Mr. Cannell covers enterprise collaboration and social software, search, content management, and open-source collaboration and content solutions. Read Full Bio

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Frictionless Sharing and the Enterprise Social Network

by Larry Cannell  |  January 27, 2012  |  Comments Off

Facebook’s new “frictionless sharing” enables someone to automatically post what they are doing online in a stream of status updates. To some, this is a little too much sharing. However, “enterprise frictionless sharing” should be the norm for internal social network sites.

As a result of Facebook’s frictionless sharing I am constantly seeing what songs some of my friends are listening to through Spotify or what news articles they are reading on Yahoo. If granted permission, Facebook applications (e.g., Spotify or the Yahoo news reader) are able to write to your wall without requiring explicit acknowledgement. In essence, these updates become a by-product of some (non-social network-related) action you perform, such as listening to a song or reading an online article.

Many in the blogosphere have criticized this new level of sharing and even go so far as to say that "Facebook is ruining sharing." Personally, I have stopped clicking links coming from one of the "frictionless" news readers because I know it will first ask me to install a Facebook application, implying that I too want my Facebook friends to see all the articles I am reading on Yahoo (for example). To me, this is just too much information to share with friends on Facebook.

What About Enterprise Social Network Sites?

However, for enterprise social network sites "frictionless sharing" should be the norm and what architects aspire to provide. It represents a new core IT capability that can turn social network sites from a seemingly interesting diversion ("Oh look, a corporate version of Facebook") to something that becomes an indispensable tool that information workers like to use because it can help them get their job done.

I should first explain that my use of “frictionless sharing” (let’s call it “enterprise frictionless sharing”) is slightly different than how Facebook uses the term. Instead of posting an update about every song I listen to on Spotify (or every article I click on Yahoo), “enterprise frictionless sharing” entails monitoring a business application for significant changes to an entity of interest (e.g., a customer in a CRM system, activity within a project workspace, or a release in a product management system). Similar to Spotify, these updates are posted to a social network activity stream as a by-product of something happening within the application (e.g., a customer makes an inquiry, a document is uploaded, or a product is released to production). So, instead of having to go to a business application in order to check on the progress of (for example) a product release, appropriate workers (e.g., managers, analysts, or engineers) can simply "follow" the product release through their social network site feed to learn of any significant change.

Now granted, there is a risk that notifications of these activities will over-run a news feed (and, in my opinion, the effectiveness of these feeds will differentiate products in this market). However, the surfacing of application-generated activities have the opportunity to turn an internal social network into a dynamic work environment that:

  • Improves the effectiveness of individuals through proactively bringing them information they need. By offering something of value to them, more people are likely to want to use the social network, rather than viewing it as yet another place to go.
  • Provide opportunities to spark conversations in response to events (e.g., someone posts a comment stating they have friend who works for a potential new customer).
  • Build a powerful knowledgebase that can be searched in the future (e.g. to help an information worker avoid answering the same question again and again).

The Social Online Workplace

In a recently published report, called “The Post-2.0 Era: Social in the Context of My Work,” I refer to this environment as the Social Online Workplace and describe it this way:

An enterprise social network platform plays a foundational role in the Social Online Workplace, but its effectiveness and relevance to the information worker is supported through the integration of events coming from collaborative content tools and business applications. This provides an environment that both improves the productivity of individuals (by enabling them to maintain awareness of activities within their sphere of responsibility) and allows people to interact and contribute comments and other forms of feedback in response to work-driven activities (in addition to social messages posted by colleagues) in a familiar collaborative context (i.e., the social network).

Subscribers to Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) can read more about the Post-2.0 era here. If your company is a Gartner customer you may already be able to access this and other GTP reports. To see if you do, contact your company’s Gartner Membership Administrator. If you do not know who that is ask Gartner.

** Support My Enterprise 2.0 Submission **

I have submitted a proposed session to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference that covers the concepts discussed above. Details about the session and how you can help get it on the agenda are available on this blog post.

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