Going social - getting past the terminology debate

2012-11-29

In recent weeks I've had a number of conversations about both terminology and ownership of technology in organisations. The recent Connected Enterprise 2012 conference in particular highlighted the possible breadth of general information and communication technologies that people in organisations use to get work done - from social intranets to video conferencing. Unfortunately its rare for a single person or team in an organisation to own that entire domain, because it crosses everything from IT infrastructure and applications to corporate communications and information management.

I know some people might point out that this simply indicates the need for governance that involves all the possible stakeholders sitting at that table, but that only really answers the problem once an organisation has recognised that all these pieces are actually related.

At Ripple Effect Group (formally Headshift) we adopted the idea of 'social business' - there was good reason for this, but its not a phrase without its own problems (some people don't like 'social' and there is the unfortunate overlap with social enterprise). But the rational behind the concept of social business was to focus on the impact of social software (and related Web and mobile technologies) on how organisations function, including employees, business partners and customers. It was also nice to have word to label what we had been trying to do all along!

Bearing in mind the historic slow burn of intranets, confusion about the meaning of the phrase and the ongoing lack of interest at senior levels in organisations, 'intranet' isn't going to cut it either. Reflecting on conversations over the last couple of weeks, I'm not the only one saying this either.

Its undeniable that social software along with mobile, cloud computing and Web 2.0 are having an impact, inside and out. I'm even seeing evidence that those who have been arguing against these trends are also coming to a grudging acceptance that change is happening. However, I still have no idea what to call it or identify who owns it.

I guess in the meantime, from the perspective as a consultant, I'll continue talking to the champions, innovators and IT staff in organisations that want to talk about this, but using their language of choice: Intranet, collaboration, social intranet, Enterprise 2.0, telework, digital workplace, digital, enterprise social networks, social learning, SharePoint… its actually all the same thing from my point of view.

But as for the terminology debate itself and the posturing that has gone with it, frankly I'm bored of it. Lets just get on with it.

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