It’s been a busy couple of days for enterprise social tools. IBF24, just finished, had a big focus on the social tools that are being rolled out in organisations of every size, from Yammer to team sites, from status updates to rich staff directories.
There was also palpable enthusiasm for social tools amongst participants at the Intranätdagarna (Intranet Days) conference in Stockholm today. This is feeling like the “topic of the moment” for intranet and comms teams.
There’s no doubt that social tools provide a powerful new way of connecting people with people in organisations. These tools are increasingly effective, easy to use, cheap and transformative. But there’s some serious over-enthusiasm and naïvety about the impact of these tools.
When asked about why social tools are such a focus, comms and intranet teams say:
“We want to help people connect with other people.”
“We want to break through silos to connect the organisation together.”
“We want to enable two-way communication with staff.”
“We want to create a collaborative, knowledge-sharing culture.”
“We want to reshape the way the organisation works together, from the bottom up.”
These are all interesting goals, but in response I have to say:
You can’t change corporate culture using social tools.
Simply rolling out new tools, particularly as part of a pilot, will not magically change the organisation and its culture. There are also growing concerns that collaboration tools will simply reinforce existing silos, rather than break through them.
While there is a clear need and opportunity for social tools, we must:
- set clear, business-focused, objectives for social tools
- recognise where social tools will, and won’t, work
- use tools to support, rather than drive, culture change
- focus on gaining adoption
- be realistic about the cultural impact of social tools
If you have an organisation where business areas don’t work with each other, don’t think that this will be solved by deploying social tools. If there is a business goal of transforming the organisation, by all means support this with the deployment (and adoption) of social tools.
But let’s never forget that connecting people is about people, not the tools we deploy.