Friday, May 10, 2013

Social Networks in Business

   In the last few years, there has been a huge shift in business culture to create social networks. People are now the primary focus. The latest graduates demand it. Have you heard that? I have (many times, in fact). Think of Facebook, Twitter, and the recent demos you've seen about these social tools at our disposal. Joe can now post about a presentation he just put together and share it with everyone. “Likes” from colleagues about completed projects or promotions are plentiful. Sally just got back from her vacation with the family and has another scheduled later this year. Connecting people is great but how much of this information has real business value? Is it possible that too much emphasis has been placed on people?

   Now think back in time for a moment. When you were in school, did your parents ask who your friend Jennifer was dating? Did they care about Mike’s new girlfriend? Were there any questions about how bored everyone was in class? They probably just wanted to skip the gossip and know if you were getting your work done and how your grades were. Parents are busy people and don’t have time for every detail and have to filter out the “noise” in their children’s lives. Our individual lives are chaotic as is. Do you even remember those details which seemed so important at the time? We are all in a constant struggle to filter out the noise. Businesses are struggling to do the same and are giving in to the "peer pressure" without giving much thought as to why. As proactive as we'd all like to be, the reality is that we are generally more reactive to the environment around is. Success comes from being proactive and anticipating what happens next. Here’s your chance.

   Think about the following scenario. Its 10 years from now. Are you with the same company? Are you in the same role that you were in 10 years ago? What about colleagues? Have they changed roles, retired, or moved on to a new companies and/or opportunities? Owners, CEO's, Board Members all change. It’s inevitable.

   Okay, we’re back to today. When I think of SharePoint, I think of it as a tool for collaboration first and then focus on the document management side second. I also think of it as an ongoing historical record to be referenced at any point in the future. In the old days, video exit interviews were popular. I even saw these videos transcribed for historical purposes. Trying to find something from that is like trying to find a "needle in a haystack." How many times have you searched for an email to get specific details about a topic discussed a few months ago… years ago? As we search through all of our “junk mail” (I mean, giant inboxes), we realize that most of the relevance is gone and we’re just filtering out the noise. Those emails about sales, coupons, old boarding passes, jokes, etc. are just in the way.

   Let’s time travel one last time. Its 10 years in the future and you've been promoted. Congratulations! Now you’re trying to find some important information about a client. How much noise is in your way? Remember, we’re searching through an ongoing historical record in SharePoint. All those “likes” have a lot less meaning now. A few hours into your search, you found a search result on a presentation you were looking for! Wait... no, sorry that was just the note that Joe completed it. Well maybe you can do a people search on Sally since she also worked on it. You just have to get through all those vacation posts! Welcome to the world of social networks in business.