An Ethnographer’s View of Social Media in the Enterprise

I am much taken by the first contribution by Charles Armstrong to the FASTForward Group Blog. As with many other bloggers in the social media space he speculates on the trends in 2008. His predictions in summary are:

  1. Many companies will commission pilots of “Facebook for the enterprise”. Most will fail to deliver any value.
  2. Microsoft SharePoint will gain rapid adoption as a surrogate for social computing.
  3. The first social computing applications to target specific business problems will appear.
  4. “Enterprise Social Computing” will gain ground as an umbrella term alongside “Social Networking” and “Enterprise 2.0?.

Overall I have to agree with all his comments, but the second point about SharePoint came as a surprise. I have always been a user and devotee of SharePoint but even I would not have put its case so strongly. On SharePoint Charles writes:

In 2008 a lot of businesses will be interested in social computing but nervous about implementing unfamiliar technologies. Microsoft SharePoint is ideally placed as a “safe haven” for such businesses. SharePoint opens up a degree of emergent structure and collaboration without rocking the boat. It slots into the familiar Microsoft product universe. In its 2008 guise it even presses some “social” buttons with wiki and blog functionality (though I wonder how many businesses will actually use these). Some businesses will find that SharePoint takes them as far as they want to go. Many others will find its limitations frustrating and will go on to implement fully-fledged social computing solutions. Either way SharePoint adoption is going to sky-rocket during 2008.

Charles is obviously in day-to-day contact with enterprise clients so his views are valuable. My own institution is evaluating SharePoint for content management and intranet use, and I would dearly like them to adopt it. It is unlikely that SharePoint adoption will be driven on social media grounds although this obviously is another factor to raise in its favour. SharePoint is definitely not in the league of Facebook or WordPress

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but would offer a gentle introduction to social media.


About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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