Social Networking

social networking Photo courtesy of BrandDignityOpens in new window

Social networking is an extension of blogs and wikis. Social networking sites provide an unprecedented peer-to-peer communication channel where people interact in an online community, sharing personal and professional information and photos, producing and sharing all sorts of ideas and opinions.

Encouraging and facilitating the sharing of tacit knowledgeOpens in new window isn’t easy. Despite the fact that companies have spent billions on software and other technology for knowledge managementOpens in new window, there is some indication that knowledge sharing has fallen short of managers’ goals.

For instance, 60 percent of employees surveyed by a Harris poll said work was often duplicated in their organizations because people were unaware of one another’s work.

54 percent said their companies missed opportunities to innovate because of poor collaboration and information sharing, and 51 percent said managers regularly made poor decisions because employee knowledge isn’t effectively tapped.

A recent approach that holds promise for more effective sharing of tacit knowledge is the use of social media, including corporate social networking and other social technology tools such as blogs and wikis.

A blog is a running web log that allows an individual to post opinions and ideas about work projects and processes.

The simplicity and informality of blogs make them an easy and comfortable medium for people to communicate and share ideas. In addition, the microblogging service Twitter is increasingly being used by companies as a fast way to solve problems. People can send a question and quickly get responses all over the organization or from outsiders.

A wiki is similar to a blog and uses software to create a website that allows people to create, share, and edit content through a browser-based interface.

Rather than simply sharing opinions and ideas as with a blog, wikis are free-form, allowing people to edit what they find on the site and add content.

At Rosen LawOpens in new window, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based law firm, managers moved all contracts, court orders, case files, and other documents to a secure wiki. If people see a better way to organize information, they go ahead and do it. Lawyers and paralegals, for instance, have different needs, so the two groups edited one another’s entries until both were happy with certain categorizations.

Another benefit besides enhanced coordination is that search engines can mine company blogs and wikis to help people identify who has expertise in a specific area or knowledge that could be useful to a particular project.

Because of the popularity of Facebook in people’s personal lives, most employees are comfortable with the idea of “following” and communicating with their colleagues online.

Using social networks for a business enables people to easily connect with one another across organizational and geographical boundaries based on professional relationships, shared interests, problems, or other criteria.

A Symantec salesman in Dubai created a group on the company’s social network that exchanges sales tips from employees around the world.

People can use the social network to search for tags that will identify others with knowledge and resources that can help them solve a problem or do their jobs better. Moreover, the nature of social networking builds trust so that people are more likely to cooperate and share information.

Many organizations, from small entrepreneurial firms and nonprofit agencies to huge corporations, are experimenting with using social media for business purposes. One organization that has implemented a clearly thought-out social media strategy is CognizantOpens in new window.

At CognizantOpens in new window, social mediaOpens in new window is used to create a learning and knowledge-sharing environment for both its employees and its partners and clients. As stated on the company’s website, the high-level use of social media enables Cognizant to “access the specialized skills of our deep talent pool from anywhere in the world, to solve any problem.” Clients and industry experts agree that this approach has given Cognizant a competitive advantage in its industry.

IN PRACTICE | Cognizant
Few companies have applied social media as effectively as CognizantOpens in new window, based in Teaneck, New Jersey and with employees in development centers around the world. Cognizant provides information technology, consulting, and business process outsourcing services to companies that span five continents and every major industry.

Many of Cognizant’s employees are young and they appreciate the opportunity to use social media to build their personal and professional networks both inside and outside the company. All project managers are rated on how well they use social media, and Cognizant regularly analyzes the strength of its employee networks. By looking at who has a large number of followers, managers can tap into these people to help spread new ideas or get feedback from across the organization.

Much of the knowledge at Cognizant’s is tacit knowledge that can’t easily be captured in a structured way. Rather, it has to be located and accessed through social and personalities among colleagues. One aspect of the social media system is a knowledge management platform, called Knowledge Management Appliance, which includes the ability to “tag” both documents and people so an employee can easily search for those with expertise related to specific technologies or projects. In addition to questions and answers, employees post blogs, comments, and Twitter-like messages that help build connections. KM Appliance is integrated with the Cognizant C2 initiative, which is designed to provide people with access to specific codified knowledge in the context of a particular work process. For any task, a user can see task dependencies, guidance information, templates, similar project artifacts, notes, and checklists.

The final aspect is using social media to connect with external stakeholders, such as clients, industry experts, and academics. An important point is that Cognizant doesn’t use this for sales or marketing purposes, but rather for building a trusted online environment where people can connect with one another, share content and opinions, follow one another’s activities, and have a dialogue about important business issues.
  1. Richard L. Daft and Norman B. Macintosh, “The Nature and Use of Formal Control Systems for Management Control and Strategy Implementation,” Journal of Management 10 (1984), 43 – 66