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6/26/2012
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How To Build A Collaborative Organization

Jacob Morgan, author of the book, The Collaborative Organization, talks to BYTE about how to build a good internal social network.

With Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer, collaboration is on everyone's mind.

I was at Enterprise 2.0 and Mobile Connect in Boston last week, and spoke to Jacob Morgan, the author of a new book called The Collaborative Organization, which discusses how employees can work together. Morgan walked us through the crowded exhibit hall and told us why it's important to have a strategy for employee collaboration.

In the interview below, Morgan explains why Yammer is more popular than SharePoint but has fewer users. He discusses misconceptions about collaboration tools and gives advice on how to be vendor-agnostic.

BYTE: What are the popular enterprise network applications? What are people using?

JM: Oftentimes what's popular isn't always what people are using. SharePoint, for example, isn't a platform that I would consider popular yet they have almost 40 million paid licenses. [Correction: According to Microsoft, SharePoint has 125 million paid licenses worldwide.] Yammer on the other hand is very popular yet has just under a million paid users.

These days, popularity is becoming about which vendor spends the most on marketing. At the end of the day organizations need to be focusing on tools and technologies that make the most sense for them instead of focusing on what is popular.

BYTE: What are the misconceptions about deploying enterprise social networks?

JM: There are several misconceptions. One of them (which is one that I like to think we are seeing diminish) is that all you need to do is deploy a technology to solve problems, which of course is not the case.

Organizations have a lot they need to think about and consider on the strategy and people side of collaboration as well.

Another big misconception is that you should deploy a platform just because you have a relationship with the vendor. In other words, you get a heavily discounted price since you are partners and therefore that is the vendor you go with--a big mistake. You should deploy tools that make sense for your company, not because they are cheap.

A third big misconception is assuming that just because the platforms are built to look like Facebook and Twitter that people will use them. Even though platforms might be intuitive, employees need to see some sort of individual value that will make them want to use the tools.

BYTE: Why is it hard to get employees to collaborate via the social networks?

JM: "Hard" is it a bit of a subjective term which is difficult to define in this case. Just deploying something and expecting employees to use it is not realistic, but I suppose if that scenario were likely it would be considered "easy." Today we see organizations needing to develop training programs, focus on executive support, deal with culture issues, create strategies, and a host of other things. Is that considered "hard?" Maybe.

But I prefer to look at this as just a requirement and part of the process. There are always obstacles and there will always be resistance but that's what happens when you introduce change. It takes time and it takes effort but anything worthwhile usually does.

BYTE: How might enterprise networks replace email as the primary mode of communication?

JM: Some vendors believe in pulling people out of email into their platforms. Others believe that email can be leveraged and built upon as the collaboration platform of choice. Not all companies have replacing email as a goal.

However, as far as efficiency and functionality goes, enterprise networks offer far more robust capabilities than anything email can offer. I don't think email is getting replaced anytime soon, but it's use might change in the future from one of a collaboration platform to one of an alert platform. In other words, email will just be used as a way to notify us of things that we need to pay attention to on collaboration platforms. Kind of like a virtual pager for the enterprise.

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