In late 2008 I was working with a company to specify and deploy an internal “enterprise” social network “software” as part of a larger social network initiative.  The question at the time was “What is  social media, why is it important, and what is our social media strategy going to be?”

We had formed an internal  cross-functional steering team to address these issues, and like every team, some members attended consistently and some did not.  The folks who attended eventually got on board for the larger social networking initiatives, but were torn down the middle to the value of this employee enterprise network.

I think even in 2010 there is a lot of debate at the executive level whether social networks offer any value to companies, and if so, where?  Some have identified its value to that of just a marketing and/or recruiting tool externally, but internally, many have seen them only as a drag on productivity (or potentially even more dangerous). 

Anyway, we were all set to launch this new employee network when HR stepped in and put the kibosh on it.  It is important to note, that HR was definitely an invited participant on this larger steering team 🙂

So my question becomes, where do you stand on this issue?  Do you believe that employee “enterprise” social networking software lets the employee stay in touch with a large network of colleagues thus allowing the employee to keep up to date with that they’re doing, working on, and producing or telling this network the same?  Or do you believe that al large portion of this group will waste time or even more frightening; say negative things about people in the firm, or about the organization as a whole. 

Personally, after designing this social network, I believe that connecting employees to those who can help answer questions quickly (and more importantly accurately) is a huge win for the organization.  By all employees networking with their peers (even those they have not met yet) we essentially flatten  the organizational structure and remove barriers (departments, time zones, title).  With the ability to form “Groups” within the employee base we can start to maximize our employee IP by teaming those with similar interests and/or job functions.  Imagine the VP’s collaborating in a “VP Group” on the most important issue of the day, real-time, without waiting to call a meeting or without the formal structure of that meeting.

Man, that’s power!