Thanks for visiting the Digital Workplace Group (DWG) website. You'll see this post may refer to the "Intranet Benchmarking Forum (IBF)," the "Digital Workplace Forum (DWF)" or "IBF Live." But that doesn't match our website name!
In a nutshell, we merged IBF and DWF into one service and changed our name to "Digital Workplace Group." The new name represents the broader set of services we've grown to offer, beyond an original focus on just intranets. We also changed the name of our monthly webinar from "IBF Live" to "Digital Workplace Live."
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Much is currently being made in the media of the time employees are ‘wasting’ on social networking website Facebook, and the security risks that social networking sites pose to the organisation and to the knowledge of its employees. Indeed, Sophos last week reported its own research indicating that some 50% of firms are now blocking Facebook, in an attempt to save employees from themselves.
The jury is most definitely still out on Facebook. On the one hand, it in so many ways resembles its predecessors, Orkut, LinkedIn and a long line of et ceteras, though perhaps it has achieved greater mass within organisations than many earlier networking sites. So what’s new? Well, the API is useful for generating rapid application developments, and this feature is leading to constant development of third party applications. And Facebook does have fairly well thought out and sophisticated privacy settings, though it’s up to individuals to set them appropriately. Certain features of Facebook, such as the Groups function, are generally agreed to not meet most users’ requirements, though applications are continuously under development. Putting data into Facebook is a one-way trip: it is just another walled garden. And finally, the Facebook terms and conditions would put the wind up any corporate lawyer. Check out the summary provided by my colleague Mike Butcher, but essentially, ‘all your base are belong to us‘. So something of a mixed bag.
On the other hand, Facebook is being taken seriously by some players. At least one CIO of international repute is now encouraging his employees around the world to work through Facebook when internal systems go down (presumably within the Facebook network created for his organisation). And I don’t think I’m revealing any organisation secrets here, as he did welcome this move on his Facebook status message ;-).
Outside the private sector, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce – commonly abbreviated to RSA – is now seriously looking at adopting Facebook, or other social tools such as Ning, to enable the RSA’s thousands of geographically dispersed Fellows to run groups and networks, and develop their activities and projects. The RSA has limited funds, and is reluctant to waste effort on trying to build and then maintain its own systems if it can find the right social tool that provides appropriate functionality, flexibility, and usability. Though developing specialised applications for Facebook may be on the agenda. You can, of course, follow – and join in – the online discussion on Facebook.
While pulling up the Web-based networking drawbridge may appeal to some
organisations, it is difficult to keep up with the rapid developments
in this area: the exercise is akin to using a sieve to hold back a
river. Filters may focus on the flavour of the day, but do those organisations know how much time those same staff are spending on Twitter? Or Pownce? Or…?
My own experience is that the majority of my ‘friends’ on Facebook are in some way work-related, and while there is some water-cooler conversation, it’s also a great way to get really useful information, such as where to find a good wi-fi hotspot in a location you don’t know; or to distribute information widely among a community of interest without invading everybody’s over-stretched inboxes. And the sophistication and usability is better than that found on the average intranet.
I’d also suggest that much that is good or useful has passed from the Web to intranets, but I find it hard to think of innovations that have travelled in the opposite direction. Facebook now houses substantial employee networks for some large organisations. And in any case, we don’t just deal with people within our own walls in our daily work. Rather than banning Web-based social networks and all their works, a good set of guidelines, and perhaps some exploration of potential uses, shortcomings, and lessons for the organisation may be a better investment.