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Social networking helps sustain innovation

“Innovation can mean either taking on a new challenge that has not previously been met, or finding a radically better solution to an existing problem,” Lavoy continues. “Collaboration can bring together a divergent set of perspectives, which has been shown to lead to better decision-making and problem solving.” An advantage to including social networking profiles is that employees can choose to list interests that fall outside their past work experience, but that may be a potential source of new thinking for a corporate challenge.

Activity streams feed profiles via SharePoint

With many important conversations happening on social networks outside the enterprise, leveraging that information is becoming increasingly important. Allyis, a technology consulting firm, advocates the capture of what it calls “emergent knowledge,” which may not have been formally documented yet, but is nevertheless critical to innovation.

“One of the challenges is how to reproduce the success of Twitter and Facebook within the organization,” says Ken Efta, co-founder of Allyis. “We have written connectors that surface, in an enterprise context, information in conversations that take place outside the enterprise by storing them in SharePoint.” Once documented, the comments can be linked to an employee’s profile page and related to other enterprise information. “This method of incorporating social networking data streams extends user profiles,” Efta says, “and integrates the information with enterprise content.”

Balancing corporate and personal social networking is a delicate process, Gartner’s Rozell believes. “The openness of the way we work today is both an opportunity and a risk,” she says. “People have always networked, whether it was in the public square in ancient Athens or as we do now, through the use of technology. Social networking technology helps people become visible and share their ideas more broadly and more quickly.” That visibility fosters recognition of the individual’s value and knowledge, and provides a means to connect with colleagues to support the organization’s mission. 

Mining social networks

Corporations have been mining social networks to measure customer sentiment over the past few years with considerable success, and are now making broader use of social networking content. One solution for that purpose is offered by NetSuite, which is a cloud-based suite of applications that includes enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), e-commerce and business process management (BPM) components. NetSuite has partnered with Inside View to bring information from social networks directly into its front-office and back-office applications.

InsideView crawls multiple information sources, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blogs, as well as business services such as Thomson Reuters. “Through InsideView, which is natively integrated with NetSuite, customers can be aware of product launches, earnings and comments about business events through information derived from social media sources,” says Paul Turner, director of solution marketing for NetSuite.

The information is filtered according to the customer’s needs—by company name, for example—and presented in a unified interface. “These feeds keep our customers up to date on what’s happening in their industry or among their customers,” says Turner, “to support lead generation and accelerate the sales cycle. InsideView also supports employee use of the CRM system, because all the information they need is delivered within one application.”

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