Social technologies, the kiss of death!

By Roger Gorman, Founder & CEO at ProFinda.

Since around 2003, organizations have been going crazy for the ‘social tool’. The belief was, understandably: social platforms = social businesses.

And, well we all want a more socialized business, right! With a social company we gain a faster exchange of the right knowledge, greater transparency around the organization while crushing those cancerous siloes that hurt collaboration, and indeed harm any dream of a ‘Workforce of the Future’.

Newsflash: (ironically and poetically) a social platform does NOT generate a social business.

Oddly they have proven to only serve to reinforce a siloed organization!

Blasphemy, right?

Well here are some observations to explain why this is happening:

  1. In our research over 11 years we’ve seen that social technologies only serve to reinforce the same social siloes we all know. As an example, if you and I were in the HR function of a global bank, the first thing we’d do is set up a HR group on our new social platform. So good so far! But in our analysis across thousands of workers, the actual work and knowledge needed is to find experts and insight OUTSIDE your team. And amazingly we all seek for this type of knowledge 28 times a day on average! That’s 4.3 hours per week spent needing to find knowledge outside your team. So suddenly it’s clear; those heroes who you really need to discover (for those bids, projects, mentor moments) are people probably in a different office, a different country, perhaps they left the firm 2 years ago! As such, the core construct of a social platform simply is not designed to support this workplace reality. The ideal solution must therefore unlock collaboration outside forums and groups!
  2. Data please! It’s acknowledged that social technologies lack intelligence, hampering their ability to cut through siloes. So while we need accurate and up to date profiles about each of us, the actual knowledge you need is sitting (lost) but living somewhere, in a variety of different places. Emails, archives, timesheets, CRMs, ATMs, payroll etc. So for the right technology to drive meaningful connections a platform needs smart algorithms, machine learning and AI to building smart 3d profiles, dynamically and connected to actual workflows. Forums and threads do very little to deepen the actual knowledge of any single employee. So naturally a global rollout of a social platform fails at this first critical hurdle.
  3. Culture/attitude: Social technologies (and indeed 99% of B2B tech) fails to sync desired corporate culture with individual and team behaviours. As supporting data: 74% of typical employees don’t jump at the chance to collaborate! Not without extra incentives. This issue is known to social psychology experts just not to the designers of social platforms it seems. So a platform which helps organizations collaborate intelligently needs to motivate, reward and recognise colleagues. And so drive the behaviour we all hope for. And have all this in sync with the type of culture an organisation desires.

… I could continue, but I think these are 3 of the main reasons why ‘social’ technologies have not moved the dial on collaboration, nor enterprise transformation.

And since they are still used so often to share pictures of cats and non-work themes, organizations are still missing the critical oxygen they need: engagement and therefore data!

In one global firm we researched, over 90% of communications on their social tool were of non-work items, and the most popular theme was …. Yep CAT pictures!

I wholly support the notion of a social platform. In fact we at ProFinda use mostly WhatApp to share social pics, silly jokes and very inappropriate banter to breath ‘fun’ across our organization.

But can we PLEASE refine their purpose! They are perfect tools to offer a light touch social layer to our organizations. Which is fantastic to nudge a fun, flatter culture.

HOWEVER if it’s actual transformation, and actual ‘work collaboration’, that’s needed it’s time for a new type of platform.

Gratefully we’re entering the era of the Intelligent Enterprise. Here we can now start to truly leverage our organization’s corporate memory, knowledge and social capital. And through a new sense of employee centricity and empowerment, we can build true engagement.

The prize will be happier staff, phenomenal new data sets, and thus the chance for real workforce planning, and the right to not just survive but flourish.

If you would like an informal conversation about becoming a new Intelligent Enterprise, we must chat. We love and live in this space. For a free coffee, or a free consultancy workshop on intelligent technology and culture transformation, please use this unique code email:


About the author

Roger Gorman is the founder & CEO at ProFinda - connect with him at Roger[at], on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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