Jacob Nielsen, the guru of usability testing, has a new Alertbox on Social Networking on Intranets that is worth the read. From 14 business case studies he draws five conclusions (direct quote):
- Underground efforts yield big results. Companies are turning a blind eye to underground social software efforts until they prove their worth, and then sanctioning them within the enterprise.
- Frontline workers are driving the vision. Often, senior managers aren't open to the possibilities for enterprise 2.0 innovation because they're not actively using these tools outside of work. Indeed, many senior managers still consider such tools as something their kids do. One of the dirty secrets of enterprise 2.0 is that you don't have to teach or convince younger workers to use these tools; they expect them and integrate them as easily into their work lives as they do in their personal lives.
- Communities are self-policing. When left to their own devices, communities police themselves, leaving very little need for tight organizational control. And such peer-to-peer policing is often more effective than a big brother approach. Companies that we studied said abuse was rare in their communities.
- Business need is the big driver. Although our report discusses specific tools (blogs, wikis, and such), enterprise 2.0's power is not about tools, it's about the communication shift that those tools enable.
- Organizations must cede power. Using Web 2.0 technologies to communicate with customers has taught many companies that they can no longer control the message. This also rings true when using Web 2.0 tools for internal communication. Companies that once held to a command-and-control paradigm for corporate messaging are finding it hard to maintain that stance.
And concludes …social software isn't really about the tools. It's about what the tools let users do and the business problems the tools address.