- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

Will ‘Enterprise Social Networks’ fail in the same way as ‘Knowledge Management’ did? It’s behaviours, stupid.

Knowledge management was an idea hijacked by IT. When management of knowledge became buying the Mother of All Portals, and big consulting groups with IT speciality competed with each other on the ultimate sophistication of ‘people connected and accessing all possible information in Mother Earth’, they killed it. The problem was never the technology, or the colossal bills that people were prepared to pay. It was behaviours. Nobody apparently realised that the Pan Galactic Portal actually relied on little people like you and me accessing, doing, searching, inputting and collaborating. When people did not see the point, Super Portals had 30% usage in a good day.

Knowledge Management as a ‘hijacked movement’ went into prolonged agony. The term is still used today in a more generic and un-sophisticated way. Only the likes of David Gurteen [1] keep the philosophical frame and flame alive and provide practical avenues.

Enterprise Social Networks, ESN (internal Facebook-like social networks, Yammer, all the offspring and cousins of SharePoint, and others [2]) are now becoming the norm in may organisations (‘we have to have one of these’). The benefits are enormous. The usage and uptake patchy and even loyal people in the conceptual side are beginning to accept that others see it as a pain, another version of that annoying intranet that quite never served a purpose other than some trivial showcasing.

Small detail, collaborative software needs collaborative behaviours. Collaborative software does not create collaborative behaviours, it banks on them. Translation: second small detail, ESN needs people actually using it, inputting, talking, sharing, collaborating. If it becomes an obligation, it will die. If it becomes something we have ‘because we can’, it will die. If it becomes the typical IT ‘we build it/provide it, they will use it’, it will die.

ESN need carefully orchestrating from the behavioural side. Left to their own devices, it may or may not thrive. Whether they will substitute internal email or other forms of interactions, it will depend on the behavioural fabric, not the technology. It could be Knowledge Management, take two. But this would be a real, real shame.