Lipstick on a pig – social media in the workplace

There has been a great deal of debate about whether social media inside the workplace is a fad or delivers real business value.  There are several reasons why social media has gotten bad press.

The moniker “Facebook for the enterprise” has not helped, as Facebook is seen as a great way of wasting time outside work. Secondly, the “make it available and it will be used” implementation approach, or “provide and pray” as it is called, is successful in less than 10% companies. Finally, the lack of strong ROI driven case studies put social well down the pecking order when it comes to strategic investment.

Bright, shiny objects

At the root of the problem the market for social media inside the workplace is both unformed and uninformed. But that is changing, and rapidly, yet it is still  considered new and exciting.

According to the analysts, social new.  Certainly the terminology is new, but are the concepts behind it? In Gartner’s recent BPM Hype Cycle, SocialBPM is near the bottom starting the climb to the Peak of Inflated Expectations.

But I believe that “the future is already here – it is just unevenly distributed“.  By that I mean I can point at major corporations who routinely have their end users collaborating to drive business process improvement. Are they using Twitter, LinkedIn or GoogleGroups. No – but they are using these style capabilities embedded within their BPM applications like tibbr which is tightly integrated with Nimbus Control or standalone applications live Jive, Yammer or Chatter.

That is why it is easy to get cynical about analysts getting all frothy and excited when a BPM vendor, possibly late to the party, launches their “BPM V6 with added SocialBPM zest” product, as I highlighted in my blog Social BPM – new and improved.

But the market has just had a huge validation. Yammer was acquired by Microsoft for $1.2B. That’s ‘B’ for billion. Yammer will be tightly integrated in Microsoft Sharepoint. “Microsoft Sharepoint is where people do work. Yammer is where they talk about it. Although Sharepoint has the ability to allow this, its interface is not as user-friendly as that of Yammer,” says Richard Edwards, an analyst at the international research company Ovum.

Taking risks

From where I am sitting Microsoft’s Yammer strategy is a risky punt.  There are 3 key risks which could scupper any chance of success:

  • Firstly, any collaboration in the workplace needs context. The discussion must be about getting a problem solved (ie part of a process) or improving a process. Therefore a tight integration with a BPM platform to give a process context is critical. Yammer does not have this.
  • The next issue is that few companies have a clearly understood and communicated set of end to end business processes. But many major corporations are now working on this as a priority, driven by a compliance need, competitive pressures or a move toward shared services. So there is often no process context.
  • Finally, those processes need to be adopted across the organisation. Without end user adoption and a mechanism for continuous improvement, what is documented and what is actually done will rapidly diverge.

So implementing a social product before you have got a real handle on your operation processes is simply putting ‘Lipstick on a pig”.


Tags: ,

Categories: Social / Collaboration, Tech Strategy

Author:Ian Gotts

Founder of, tech advisor, investor, speaker and author. Runs on Duracell. Based in San Francisco and in a 747., is the business analysis app designed to support Salesforce #AwesomeAdmins. 100% cloud, it is tightly integrated into Salesforce. Use the free core capabilities to capture business processes and embed them inside objects, with single sign-on.

Subscribe to the blog

Subscribe and receive an email when new articles are published

2 Comments on “Lipstick on a pig – social media in the workplace”

  1. Max
    July 2, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Similar to communicating via group email but pin it on a noticeboard. Where that noticeboard is will be the key.

    Maybe it is time to reflect on how email has been used or misused in the corporate world. Understanding the mistakes made with email practices will provide some hints not to make the same mistakes twice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: