Companies turning to Internal Social Networks

There's a ton of information about all the Social Networks out on the web, but a movement has been afoot to bring some of the advantages of social networks to the Intranet as well. I did some research on the topic for a half-day social networking session I spoke at with the IABC yesterday and the findings were worth taking a deeper look at. I had to dig deep to find info and screenshots, but there are a few resources out there that target the Intranet.

The Intranet really fizzled and died at most companies prior to Web 2.0 technologies. It's unfortunate, because many companies bail on an idea never to return to it once it fails. The original Intranets were nothing but rudimentary web page builders that each department had to use to post news and information, without resources nor any automation. Microsoft launched Sharepoint, but the effort needed to automate and maintain the content was still over the skill level of the average employee.

With the advent of Google Apps, Social Networks, Wikis, Windows Sharepoint Services 3.0 and other collaborative and networking tools, it's time for the Intranet to make a comeback.

Business Cases for Internal Social Networks

  • Monitor and Drive Corporate Strategies – ensure employees, teams and projects are aligned with corporate vision.
  • Flatten Company Hierarchy – provides a direct path from CEO to lowest employee and vice versa. This leads to the improved communications, transparency, trust and empowerment of employees.
  • Promote Internal Networking – provide employees with a means to find other employees with common interests both within and even outside of the company – sports, Churches, hobbies, etc. Having a strongly connected workforce leads to increased employee satisfaction and retention.
  • Ideation – Idea Generation – tools to generate ideas are common throughout a few of the major company's intranets. Digg-like tools for promoting ideas for real money and other prizes are common.
  • News and Information – share company and employee news and press releases.
  • Resources – provide libraries, tutorials, marketing material, product documentation, help, strategies, goals, budget, etc.
  • Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration – provide wikis and shared apps to increase speed of project requirements, documentation, etc.
  • Project-based Workforce – provide a means for employees to organize outside of physical location, skill level, department, etc. The ability to search and find key employees remove the chain of command from the process, allowing virtual teams to organize and execute quickly.

In reviewing the net, there were several ‘flavors' of how companies are deploying networks through their intranet – and the characteristics of the companies and their tools are telling. Please bare with me on my findings here – since I don't have direct access to Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and IBM, I'm working with articles and screenshots that may be weeks… or years old!

Google Moma

google intranet search
Google's Moma isn't a simple search engine, Moma also allows human resources to be indexed and identified as well as digital assets. From some sites I've read, Google has an equally impressive web based code review system, called Mondrian.

Yahoo! Backyard

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Yahoo! Backyard appears to prominently display their missions statement as well as organize material supporting that statement for their employees to peruse. I'm kind of surprised at how polished this looks – and, judging by Yahoo's challenges in having a strategy, I'm not sure how well this approach is paying off.

IBM Beehive

ibm beehive

In an organization as large as IBM, with hundreds of thousands of employees, it's probably a great idea to put a site up where folks can find each other! The Beehive appears to be a great resource for employees to identify and locate other employees.

Microsoft Web

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Microsoft's site really appears to concentrate on resources for its employees on their products and services. Most recently, though, Microsoft has launched Townsquare – a social application for networking and collaboration.

You need not be a large company to incorporate collaboration tools into your work processes. At my company, we've migrated entirely to Google Apps and have even integrated it with Salesforce.


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    Hey Doug, handy post – in my company we’ve migrated to Google Apps as well. Its super handy. So for purposes of internal chat and things like that its great. The calender and docs are also great for internal purposes. I noticed a tiny glitch though. Being a media company, we work on multiple projects and i find that i dont want some of my employees receiving information on all my projects. We switched to Deskaway and i find that at all times i feel like im in more control. Plus there are sharing facilities within each project so i can share blogs and files etc – keeping things compartmentalized within projects — and analytics are an added bonus. the thing missing in the app is chat but then Google Apps more than makes up for that. DA is not the only tool – theres Zoho and Wrike and Basecamp etc. – but i find that Deskaway was very reasonable – $10 – $25 – depending on ur needs and its also got a SUPER interface – have u tried any such tools?

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    Hey Doug,

    nice post. You missed one that has been grown organically, built by two employees using open source platforms and development (drupal) and is a great example of the anti-top-down approach., Best Buy’s internal social network. Gary Koelling and Steve Bendt are the creators. Some links….

    Articles on Blueshirtnation

    They’re also mentioned in Charlene Li’s book, “Groundswell”.


    Joshua Kahn

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