David Wilcox has been thinking about how the 27,000 members of the Royal Society for the Arts can use social media to collaborate online. He makes the very good point, following a thought-provoking post recently by Ed Mitchell that community boundaries are now often very porous, and that not all collaboration can be contained within the fixed boundaries of the community.
This chimed very strongly with a conversation I had last week with David Gurteen about adoption of social media inside the enterprise (the video podcast should be out in a couple of weeks). We concluded two main things: first, that web 2.0 tools will be more effective inside the enterprise if they are adopted as a clutch of tools – they provide interlocking and mutually reinforcing capabiities. Single-tool implementations are not likely to go far. (This fits Thomas Vander Wal’s view of the social software stack).
The second conclusion we came to is the one that links to David Wilcox’s point about communities: and this was that the boundaries of the enterprise are just as porous as communities are – all this worrying about securing the social media tools and content inside the firewall is a serious red herring.
To collaborate effectively in support of our work, many of us collaborate intensively with people outside our employing organization. Yet our internal collaboration platforms typically ignore this boundary-crossing type of work, providing almost no support except for email. Is it any wonder we are so wedded to the email beast?
In an email exchange recently, Nathan Wallace of Janssen-Cilag wiki intranet fame gave his view on the oft-cited worries about information security and governance when it comes to considering the social media inside the enterprise: “In my opinion this whole discussion comes down to a question of risk. Do the benefits of improved collaboration outweigh the risks to the organisation of this freeform publishing. Given the freeform communication channels that already exist (e.g. email), I believe we are not actually increasing our risk significantly when adding a Wiki.”
He’s got a great point. Think of how stupid it would seem to ban any email exchanges with people outside the firewall. Business would grind to a halt. (David Gurteen assured me that he knows of at least one organization that does do that – but apart from sensitive organisations like intelligence agencies and police forces where you might want two separated systems for internal and external exchanges, this strikes me as utterly stupid).
The intensity of use of email for all forms of collaboration including document sharing should teach us that all collaboration crosses the presumed boundaries of the enterprise – ie those boundaries are porous. This implies that one of the major tasks for enterprise 2.0 adoption is the ability to manage identities and authentication for all these tools across the firewall. And I don’t mean multiple logins and passwords. If email can do it simply with a single address, why can’t the other tools?
Let’s look at information security from a broader, common sense perspective. In terms of information security, what’s to stop me printing a document and giving it to someone outside my company – or copying it onto her thumbdrive, or sending it as an attachment in an email, or giving her my login details for the company intranet? The short answer is nothing except reasonable good sense. It’s certainly not the IT Dept.
So apart from making sure that enterprise-hosted content is not discoverable or browsable by non-authorised people, why shouldn’t we make it just as easy to share the content and conversations we choose with invited people outside the enterprise?
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