Previously thought just to be means of stalking beach pictures and inadvertently sharing privileged data, social networking has become indispensible to businesses that hope to achieve the three-pronged corporate Nirvana of “synergy,” “optimization” and “integration.”
Prominent enterprise software providers are lining up to satiate the Social Industrial Complex with tools to connect employees under Corporate Big Brother’s watchful eye. What better way to loop in your talent while leveraging core competencies? Don’t worry; no one actually knows what that sentence means. MBA programs are Berlitz schools of business-speak, except the language doesn’t convey any meaning.
While individual sales representatives may disagree, the major business social networks all do the same thing. They provide a forum for employees to communicate, collaborate on projects and manage tasks. These are all things you were probably already doing—and now you get to pay someone for it.
Software as a Service (SaaS) giants Salesforce have touted their product, Chatter, as the end-all tool for fostering employee cooperation. They make some bold claims—a 36 percent increase in employee productivity and 43 percent faster access to information. It’s unclear if these concepts are actually measurable, and no methodology is provided. Chatter touts its social intelligence system of recommendations, which works like a “people you may know” window. Except, instead of crushes from high school or distant family members, it provides recommendations like “Seminar You Don’t Want To Attend” or “White Paper No One Will Read.”
Microsoft’s Yammer is conceptually similar. The official line is, “With Yammer, you’re always connected to coworkers, information, and conversations.” Basically, you’re literally always at work, even if you’re physically elsewhere. The interface functions like Facebook, except the new post prompt asks, “What are you working on?” It’s a subtle reminder that you should always be working on something, even when you access Yammer at your daughter’s wedding. Who doesn’t love the cloud?
Not wanting to miss a nice cash-grab, virtualization specialists VMware offer Socialcast, another service essentially identical to the prior two. Ironically, VMware advertises its product by saying “processes and procedures, intended to simplify business practices in an increasingly complex world, have gotten out of control.” You don’t say. Their answer? Be constantly connected via another layer of complexity. Funny how “flexible work schedule” has come to mean “24/7.”
Michael Nissenbaum is a lawyer by day (and night), and a writer by night (and day). You can follow him on Twitter @gnarsenbaum.