“We need a Corporate Facebook”

This article was originally posted on July 27, 2007.

Despite an often dismissive attitude (by many people over the age of 40, enterprise software types, etc.) about Web 2.0 tools like Facebook as being mere toys, there is an increased acceptance of this type of tool, if not the tool itself, in the marketplace. Not just the consumer marketplace, but the corporate marketplace. A fine recent blog post from Dennis Howlett recently discussed this in depth, and rumors abound of suitors lining up to buy Facebook for this reason among others.

To underscore this point in my own mind, I encountered three separate recent instances of customers saying this is something that they need. Some examples:

  • “Our office environment is spread over many floors/buildings/cities/countries, and I need to know who that executive is that I just met in the hallway.”
  • “I need to find how many people in my organization have a particular skill (e.g., SQL Reporting Services, CPR, Commercial Driver’s License, Notary Public), and where they are located.”
  • “Our organization has high turnover and is widely dispersed, but our people collaborate on projects all the time. It would help if they could look each other up and learn about each other without having to be physically together, and they join our organization already used to tools like that in MySpace and FaceBook.”

The point that Howlett makes is much like the broader one almost universally accepted about Web 1.0: a new generation of users is entering the workplace, and they will never have known a world without tools like FaceBook.

Although it’s much more structured and not as mature (see the Enterprise vs Consumer discussion touched on at last year’s CIO Symposium at MIT), some of the basic framework for this “Corporate Facebook” type of application is present in tools that our firm uses and helps customers to implement.

In Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, for example:

  • users maintain profiles that store definable attributes such as certifications, schools, projects, skills, etc., and of course a picture
  • the search function in MOSS 2007 includes “people search” that lets users find people based on these attributes, etc. and initiate contact via mail, IM, etc.
  • users can maintain their own blogs and enable other users to comment on them
  • users can see how other people are related to them (colleagues, managers, projects, groups in common)
  • users can create and share calendars of events for affinity groups (project teams, departments, locations)

I was discussing this today with a colleague who has experience building a SharePoint-based “Corporate Facebook” type of application in her previous job, and we’re planning on building a demonstration of this soon based on her experience and these customer conversations. Meanwhile, I’ve created an account on Facebook so that I can correspond with my niece and nephews, and perhaps post on this topic again if there’s interest. If you are interested in exploring this topic more, please comment below or perhaps write on my wall

Originally published at https://mikegil.typepad.com.

Project management, financial management, and knowledge management. Microsoft 365 aficionado, proud Sympraxian. Opinions and Philly attytood are my own.