What's Missing from the 2010 Social Software Predictions
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 5:32AM
Steve in Organization, social computing

Recently the Gartner Group released its key predictions on the use of social software and collaboration technology in the enterprise, details can be found here - 'Five Social Software Predictions for 2010 and Beyond.'

Among the five predictions the most interesting and provocative to me are two: Flickr - bitterjug

One - By 2014, social networking services will replace e-mail as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20 percent of business users.

This may not seem like too bold a prediction, but even if only 20% of business users do migrate to social networking as the primary interpersonal communication tool that represents a massive shift in the primary means of electronic communication.  E-mail has been so dominant for so long, to see its primacy usurped even to this level is truly a bold prediction.  What is also likely is e-mail clients and services attempting to get more 'social', (G-mail to introduce status update streams), and social networks to get more classic e-mail features (Facebook to emphasize messaging). 

But still, for most business users, life without e-mail being the primary communication tool still seems a long way off.

Two - Through 2012, over 70 percent of IT-dominated social media initiatives will fail.

We have seen this prediction and finding again and again. When technology projects are dominated by IT, or seen by the business users as being 'IT initiatives', the likelihood of success diminishes. Gartner ascribes this to what they term as the traditional IT approach that has been limited to simply providing a technical solution or platform, as opposed to delivering a 'business' solution that meets the organization's needs. Social software solutions are many, the technologies vary widely, the capability and potential of a given tool really does need to be matched to a complex environment of organization structure, preferred methods of working, personal relationships, etc.  Simply 'providing' a technology (like IT does with e-mail, file storage, telephony, etc.) will not be a successful social software strategy for most organizations.

What's Missing

These predictions are drawn from a larger Gartner report titled: Predicts 2010: Social Software Is an Enterprise Reality, issued in December 2009.  This report reviews and expands upon the five predictions that were released more widely last week and runs about 10 pages long.  Rather than try and add to, or modify any of the individual five predictions in the report, (because really, if I issued my own predictions for 2014 here would anyone hold me to them?  For the record two words: Flying Cars), I want to focus on what the overall report and recommendations completely ignore.

What's missing in the short 'public' version, and in the longer source report is this: a single mention of Human Resources, Talent Management, or any indication that the people in the organization that are meant to be most attuned, and ideally responsible for understanding and promoting the kinds of behaviors, culture, and collaborations needed to truly make these social software projects successful in the enterprise.  No recommendations that HR has the expertise and the organizational imperative to make social software and collaboration an enterprise reality.  Not even a nod that IT should 'partner' with HR to develop strategy and plan for social software implementations.  Gartner does advise that IT partner with 'the business' in these efforts, but does anyone believe by 'the business' they are referring to HR?

To me, the point is not so much what these predictions specifically say, or how accurate they may or may not be.  The importance is that for organizations new to these concepts and technologies, ones that require a far deeper understanding of how the organization works (or needs to work) to be successful, that HR and the 'Talent' function might simply be ignored, or only consulted if a 'policy' needs to be crafted.

This is just one report, and perhaps I am over reacting a bit, but I do believe strongly that the introduction, application, and successful leveraging of social software in the enterprise is one of the most significant business opportunities for HR and Talent Management in the next 5 years.  It would be a shame for HR, and for the organization, to sit on the sidelines and watch IT wrestle with the problem.

Article originally appeared on Steve's HR Technology (http://steveboese.squarespace.com/).
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