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July 25 2009 Posted by: Mark Fidelman in: Enterprise 2.0, Miscellany

This Enterprise Use Case Makes Sense to Me

collaborative systems in design: first class

Image by svacher via Flickr

Whenever I flush out an idea for a new software product or solution I always look for a use case to focus my thinking.  I recently ran across a blog post by Mike Gotta of Collaborative Thinking on corporate identities.  Mike builds a fictitious scenario around a call center employee named Mary that is proactively trying to help the company by maintaining a best practices wiki.  Her attempts to join other communities within the enterprise are initially rebuked:

  • When Mary attempts to join a marketing community (via a discussion forum), her efforts to establish her social footing are rebuked. Marketing does not consider customer service and call center agents as having any type of standing when it comes to marketing-related discussions.
  • When Mary attempts to join a product development community however, her efforts are more welcome. Product development teams often have formal processes defined between the two groups to solicit feedback and to handle escalation issues related to product tickets.

The scenario detailed above is so common someone should coin a term for it.  Before Enterprise 2.0 tools, this person would be ostracized and labeled a trouble maker.  The employee either continues to annoy other departments and thus reducing her own political capital or begins to tune out and stops trying to help the company. 

Since the company had Wiki’s, Blogs and Forums, the employee was able to win over the Marketing department who initially thought she had no expertise.  

I don’t like Gotta’s portrayal of a Facebook for Enterprise example, but what’s he is describing is a semi-collaborative environment that allows the workforce to follow each other in a social manner.   

Blogs, Wiki’s and Forums are separate silos that don’t effectively measure employee performance because they only measure number of words, posts, or possibly ratings on each post.  But collectively, there is not an overall picture of the contributor (or an incomplete one) and certainly not how well they perform against business objectives.   

Instead, as I have written before, a collaborative network is a better answer which would have exposed Mary to the enterprise through her documented accomplishments.Marketing may still have rejected Mary initially, but as her prominence grew, soon enough she would have been hard to ignore. 

The key here is that collaborative networks expose experts who otherwise are hidden.  The result is a strong ROI that is difficult to quantify but very real.  It’s time corporations recognize the hidden talents of their employees.  The solutions are available, it’s time they are implemented. 


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