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The best value proposition for behind-the-firewall social networking is … fear

by Andrea Di Maio  |  October 30, 2009  |  4 Comments

This afternoon I had a very interesting meeting with a government organization that is developing its own social software platform, mostly based on open source software, to be used by several government agencies. The platform supports wikis, forums, social networking and other typical web 2.0 functionalities, and is being used by about 4 percent of the workforce.

During our conversation, I pressed them on the usual subject of what is the compelling purpose that should make their clients use their toolset as opposed to commercial tools, and how the would manage the blurring boundaries between internal and external networking. In several meetings with some other agencies during the last two days, I had been discussing about how the use of consumer social software creeps into internal government processes and often meets some of the internal collaboration requirements.

When I asked quite bluntly what was their value proposition, a member of the team dismissed my view about blurring boundaries and stated quite clearly that government employees are looking for a secure environment for collaboration. He mentioned that young people, even when attracted by government thanks to the size and complexity of the problems it faces, tend to leave relatively early as they feel they are not given the right tools. As their agencies do not allow them to access external social media from the corporate network, a more secure environment that provides the ability to collaborate behind the firewall is a better value proposition. Further, they would not incur the risks that may be faced on external media, such as security and privacy breaches.

My bottom line for that conversation is that the single most powerful value proposition for an internally developed network is just fear. Threatening employees that they could harm the agency and themselves if they go “in the wild” should be enough to scare the hell out of them and make them embrace the internal platform “en masse”.

However the train has already left the station and people use whichever external tool they see fit from home or on their smartphones. Controlling or even policing this is just an illusion. Internal tools can add value to external ones, but not quite the other way around. Only looking at this from the outside in rather than from the inside out will give relevance and a decent lifespan to internal social software developments and deployments.

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Category: social-networks-in-government  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
19 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies, open government, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio


Thoughts on The best value proposition for behind-the-firewall social networking is … fear


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jed Sundwall and Oliver Bell, Andrea DiMaio. Andrea DiMaio said: The best value proposition for behind-the-firewall social networking is … FEAR – http://bit.ly/3gwmFL #gov20 […]

  2. Steve Radick says:

    While fear may one reason for some people to use a behind the firewall solution vice an external one, I hardly think it’s the “best” value proposition. As you say,

    “Threatening employees that they could harm the agency and themselves if they go “in the wild” should be enough to scare the hell out of them and make them embrace the internal platform “en masse”.”

    Sure, this may scare the hell out of them, but it definitely won’t be why they’d use an internal platform, and it surely won’t make them use it en masse. If you really want people to use a new internal platform instead of Facebook or Twitter or some other public product, you have to A) offer some value, either in content or functionality, that’s not found on any other external site; B) offer an active, vibrant community of people; and C) insert the usage of the platform into (as opposed to above) the workflow.

    Rather than acting as a value proposition, scaring the hell out of your employees may stop your employees from using Facebook or Twitter as much before, but it doesn’t have direct impact on whether they use the internal platform or not.

  3. […] The best value proposition for behind-the-firewall social networking is … fear (tags: social technology enterprise2.0 gartner) […]

  4. Very Good point Andrea. The train has indeed left the station. The ability to “control” employees in what they say through social networks is becoming increasingly difficult whether it be public or private sector. “Blacking out” social networks like Facebook and Twitter only further mask an organization’s misunderstanding of it’s customers/constituents.



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