Great News! Social Networking is a problem

By Paul Henry
I’ve hardly been alone over the last couple of years trying to promote the potential benefits of a social computing/Enterprise 2.0 strategy. I’m normally labouring the notion of using it to mine otherwise untapped ‘Organizational Intelligence’; after all, that’s what the OI in OI Software stands for.
Other times I’m emphasising one of the other main notions behind our product nGage – which is giving every organization the opportunity to have a fully populated, private version of a ‘LinkedIn’ inside their firewall.
And always, because nGage is deployed as a native extension to an existing SharePoint installation, generally championing the idea of SharePoint being leveraged fully to build more transparent, more connected, more engaged organizations: with SharePoint 2010 offering a few more out-of-the- box social features - including a much more endearing My Site – it’s even easier to imagine it as a platform for a credible business networking experience.
And with Microsoft itself being much more bullish with its Enterprise 2.0 messaging, we can’t complain about the lack of noise out there.
But it’s still a relatively immature market. Why?
Initially it was because the noise was about woolly philosophies that couldn’t be translated into realities. Now that there are credible social computing platforms and tools out there, the problem is that the noise is about features and benefits.
Pioneers might buy philosophies. Early adopters might buy features and benefits. But the majority only buys solutions. Especially in these current times of relative caution and austerity.

And, as Bob Apollo of Inflexion Point says in his blog Solution Selling – Where’s the Problem?“If your prospect hasn’t acknowledged a problem, there can be no solution.”


And that’s why I say it’s great news that we have a problem: a real set of risks - around not developing a coherent social computing strategy behind your firewall.


Back in June, in his post entitled The Facebook Experiment Christian Finn, Microsoft’s Director of SharePoint Collaboration started to articulate it thus.


  1. Some significant number of your people find value in social networking software, as they freely use it; and
  2. Many of your employees are digitally connected externally, with the tools and opportunity to share outside the confines of the firewall.
If you don't have an internal social platform to harness the implications, capitalizing on the good and limiting the risk, things could get interesting quickly, and by interesting we don't mean in a good way, at least not when it comes to information security.”

And Karen Oqvist’s post: Get to Know Your Plumbing: Protecting Your Organisation From Leaking 'Soft Information' goes a step further in highlighting the risks of not bringing social networking ‘inside the tent’ – and forcing people to build their reputations outside the firewall.


I know that Karen has posted widely on Enterprise 2.0 issues – but it is interesting to note that she spends most of her time as a Senior Security Architect at Hewlett Packard – and that she is a frequent speaker at conferences in Europe both on the subject of identity and privacy, and information security management.


In a previous post I’ve referenced that some organizations are not even turning on SharePoint My Sites because of some security risk that they can’t quite articulate or demonstrate is real.


It would be fun if what triggered a stampede of the majority into the social computing market was the security risk of not implementing.