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« Microbias and Macroperformance | Main | Small worlds-- the degrees of separation between Cambridge, MA, and Fargo, ND »

13 March 2007

Enterprise Social Networking Software

IBM has announced to launch its Lotus Connections software in the first half of 2007 and Cisco buys the technology assets of tribe.net. It seems as if social networking software has become an important business line within large software vendors.

From a researcher's perspective it makes sense for firms to connect their employees through social networking software. Finding information, locating experts and spotting project relevant knowledge effectively are promises social software seems to able to hold. If not, why would people be interested in paying annual membership fees on platforms such as xing.com or linkedin.com.

At the same time, software vendors haven't got much to offer than whitepapers, prototypes, or other studies. A persistent question software vendors might be struggling with thus is: What is the USP of online social networking software why is it worth a client's effort to go through a massive data migration effort from several expert or knowledge management databases to a consistent social networking platform?

Here are some arguments/talking points that might help:
- Validation through Existing Models: The success of Xing.com and LinkedIn.com as two prominent examples of popular professional social networking platforms shows that managers and practitioners are willing to spend time and money in locating contacts, knowledge, and information within social networks
- Tie Characteristics and Performance: Studies in the management literature have shown that the characteristics of ties among managers and employees can have strong effects on the firm's or a managers performance (Hansen 1999, Moran 2005, Obstfeld 2005, references see below)
- Privacy Concerns: People are willing to publish their profiles online (as it can be observed on prominent Web 2.0//online social networking sites and as described by Ines Mergel in her prior blog). Hence, people are used to publishing their profiles online, have experience with it and might ranke the expected benefits higher than potential data privacy concerns.

Hence, why should making ties among people within firms visible NOT help these people to become more effective or productive over time?

Related Literature:
Hansen, M. T. 1999. The Search-Transfer Problem: The Role of Weak Ties in Sharing Knowledge across Organization Subunits. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(1): pp. 82-111.
Moran, P. 2005. Structural vs. Relational Embeddedness: Social Capital and Managerial Performance. Strategic Management Journal, 26(12): 1129-1151.
Obstfeld, D. 2005. Social Networks, the Tertius Iungens Orientation, and Involvement in Innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 50: 100–130.

Posted by Thomas Langenberg at March 13, 2007 8:09 AM