Over the past few weeks we’ve seen increasing discussion about the coming “social enterprise.” At the root of this discussion are 2 major ideas:
Idea 1: The advent of cloud-based services like Yammer, Successfactors, Kaltura or Salesforce are shifting the buyers of enterprise software from IT to end users.
Idea 2: The way we do business will soon undergo a rapid transformation as enterprises adopt social tools that allow collaboration between customers, employees, and partners.
I’m enthusiastic about these trends and excited for Kaltura to lead the cloud-video part of the social enterprise transformation. Yet, just as the consumer world struggles with norms around privacy and sharing, the enterprise software community must significantly revise its own practices here before the ‘social enterprise’ vision can truly be realized.
As we are implementing our MediaSpace product for many enterprises (which is essentially a “Corporate YouTube”), we are constantly asked by our enterprise customers to restrict user access to different content channels. I question this request because it hinders the ability of many users to participate in the corporate discussion. It takes away the “freedom to listen”, and the “freedom to learn.”
I’ll give you a personal example.
Once we implemented Sharepoint at Kaltura, I rapidly lost my ability to listen. Why? Because our IT department restricted my access to other departmental content. The result is that I now know significantly less about what’s happening in other groups, and I have a more difficult time with cross-company collaboration.
Surprisingly, email is an inherently open platform in many ways. Any user can email any other user. And once received, any email can be forwarded to another user or group of users. Authors hold the initial decision-making power.
Enterprise social platforms are different. Although many are inspired by the Facebook and Twitters of the world, these platforms are often implemented by central IT teams who immediately divide up the world by organizational units. Permissions are determined centrally – not by individual users.
The instinct to create walled gardens is natural. Enterprises are concerned about security at many levels; and as more information is traveling online, there’s increasing movement to secure this new information.
Still, to the future enterprise product developers out there… and to those who are implementing social enterprise platforms today – I encourage you to think hard about the walled gardens you erect. Preserve an inter-group read/write/share culture whenever possible.
A 3rd prong must be part of the social enterprise discussion – Idea 3: Social Enterprise is about the freedom to Listen; and when implementing social enterprise solutions, IT departments should be careful not to harm this freedom.