Social media at work

Today's enterprise employees use, hopefully at home, Flickr, Yahoo!, Facebook, and other online tools with rich user experiences. Increasingly, they are demanding that at work. They are accustomed to that sort of experience, but, even in 2011, they still don't get it at work. Why is this? This isn't because they aren't using Amazon at work but because their employer hasn't updated their internal applications in 10 years. I get frequent requests to provide some sort of "private" Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to large enterprises. Their goal is to provide some sort of social experience at work. They want to do this "in house" because of two reasons. One, they are afraid of the employees "wasting time" not interacting with their co-workers. And, two, they are worried about corporate data getting "out". Regarding the first objection, locking down the employee online experience isn't going to prevent them from using their time as they choose. You can't create rules that will create good employees. There are many more and much better ways to get employees to _want_ to behave appropriately. Moreover, these "new" social tools are not the only way an employee could squander company time. They already have lots of ways to do that, if they'd like. As for the second objection, this reminds me of the early days of content management systems (CMS). A while back, companies would spend lots of time and money creating their own systems because off-the-shelf, customizable software wasn't exactly right for them. In reality, they had different process, to be certain, but they were no better. Most enterprises seems to suffer from a "not invented here" syndrome regarding tools like that. And, so long as the implementation is left to technologists, they have a vested interest in keep things like this. Regarding security of such social networks, they are no less or more secure than the average enterprise. It's a mistake to think that, just because a tool is created in-house, it's more secure. Indeed, it might even be less secure, because in-house technologists have to learn everything about the type of application all at once, and just for one application. They are unlikely to have the same skills as a technologist at a dedicated application provider. Social media and networking can definitely benefit the average employee. And, I hope that companies will give the "standard" tools a chance before they start creating their own.