For companies that are still questioning the value of giving employees the freedom to use social media at work, some new thinking on the subject might give them reason to re-examine their policies. Tom Davenport, an IT and management professor at Babson College, well-known for his books on analytics says he is becoming convinced that the way to gain value from social media is to "combine computer-based sociality with computer-based structure."
Personal computers and transaction systems, like ERP and CRM, he notes, helped bring structure to work and increased employee productivity. When the social aspects of technology and the structure it provides are combined, he believes employee productivity can be increased. In his blog he cites two examples of this:
The first, is the C2 platform that Cognizant created about two years ago for managing projects for its customers. Employees can view a split screen with a project and task management interface on one side and the social resources that might help in completing those tasks on the other side. According to Davenport, Cognizant has found that its most productive employees are the most frequent users of the C2 platform. A September 13, 2010 article in the Economic Times notes that Cognizant has 60,000 active users of C2 and the site records 6 million page views each month. Moreover, 7,000 projects are registered in the system and employees have shared 200,000 posts about these projects.
The other example Davenport provides is Salesforce.com and its social media tool called Chatter. Chatter, for example, allows sales people to chat with others about a customer, a pending sale, the accuracy of estimates, etc. Like Cognizant, says Davenport, Salesforce has found its heaviest Chatter users are its most productive employees. Salesforce.com's own salespeople are avid users and can be notified automatically if there is any change in customer accounts or other business entities. According to Salesforce's web site, more than 150,000 salesforce.com customers have adopted the Chatter technology.
Davenport says that adding structure to social media makes employees "more conscious of the work tasks at hand, which limits the desire for purely social interaction...Purely social applications are too social, and purely structured applications provide too much structure." He believes more companies will adopt a combined approach. What do you think?