A guide to evaluating Enterprise Social Networks (Part 2)

In Part 1 we defined social media and developed categories so we could differentiate different types. This is useful but doesn’t answer a key question: why implement them in the enterprise? Is Social Media relevant to the enterprise?

We believe different types of Social Media are relevant to different enterprise functions. To assess this we plotted the categories defined in Part 1 against:

  • Operational Efficiency
    • Will the social media type improve organization performance as measured by typical KPIs?
  • Communications
    • Is the benefit of the social media type to principally seen in external enterprise communications, or internal?

The figure below shows the categories identified in Part 1 plotted by their bias towards internal/external communications, and internal/external operational efficiency or process execution.

Social Network Types Enterprise Relevance

As we’re looking at Enterprise Social Networks we’re interested in operational impact, i.e., those networks that will change the organisation for the better; those that can deliver the greatest operational benefit.

In terms of operational impact, clearly some of these categories are more relevant than others. The figure below shows the categories of social network sized according to the operational impact.

Social Network Types Operational Impact

The categories have also been recoloured in to indicate their impact on enterprise operations, from orange (little) through yellow (some) to green (significant).

Taking into account the nature and applications of each type of social network, three broad classifications can be made as shown in below.

Social Network Types Broad Classification

Clearly those bottom left have least to contribute to the operational efficiency of an enterprise. They have great value in terms of sales, PR and branding and so they’re key strategic platforms in the retail sector. A slight overlap into the top left quadrant allows for some benefit in deploying Social Organisation platforms within the enterprise but operational efficiency improvements and competitive advantages are likely to be marginal.

Those social networks at the centre have broad relevance for both operational efficiency and communications. Whether internally (e.g., hosted on Sharepoint, or an intranet) or externally (e.g., WordPress, Blogger) facing, their role is to highlight interesting third party content, explore or develop new ideas, or distribute expertise. Therefore they encourage innovation and the propagation of best practice.

Moving to the right the social network types have progressively larger impact on operations. Compared with other social networks collaborative projects can be more efficient and inclusive in their execution, and can produce step-changes in operational efficiency.

With a constant focus on real-time operations and a developed social collaboration capability, virtual operational environments can make the greatest impact of any social network, improving an organisation’s ability to react to developing situations.

Both collaborative projects and virtual operational environments will deliver operational efficiency internally, but as intimated above can do so for external business processes too; improvements can be seen throughout the value/supply chain.

Having decided that some of these types of social network are relevant and can deliver advantage, the next key question is whether it’s worth it. In Part 3 we explore whether there’s a business case.

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