The October 24th issue of ENR covered how social media is being leveraged in the construction industry. It’s an emerging story on how contractors, architects, and manufacturers are reaching new audiences and developing sales leads through tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Contrast these social media efforts with “social networking”, which is using these and other tools to extend your personal network. So for example, I use LinkedIn to manage my professional contacts and Twitter as a tool to share content and meet new people. These activities are essentially the digital version of professional networking, so in addition to attending conferences or participating in a user group, today I will also contribute to a LinkedIn group and share my bookmarks on Twitter.

But What About Enterprise Networking?

In 2006, Andrew McAfee, a professor at Harvard coined the term Enterprise 2.0 to describe how web 2.0 and social networking technologies could be leveraged in the enterprise. Technologies usually include some of the following; user profiles, groups, discussions, wikis, blogging, microblogging, idea generation, document sharing, video posting, announcements, and event calendars. Today, there are several mature enterprise 2.0 platforms on the market that target large enterprises as well as small companies. There are also many low cost options if only a single or small group of technologies are needed. All of these technologies bring new digital mechanisms for meeting people and sharing information within the enterprise.

Initially, enterprise 2.0 tools were met with lots of skepticism. The technologies were not mature, and many executives believed that “social” tools were going to hurt productivity. There was also concern over potential abuse and other negative messaging that could end up on the corporate intranet if the content was not policed. But my sense is that many corporations have looked passed these fears and realize they need these tools for better collaboration, communication, and even innovation. In a Q1/2011 survey on the State of Enterprise 2.0 Collaboration by the Chess Media Group, 70% of respondents claimed there was some resistance from management, IT, and users while 30% said there was no resistance.  So if you haven't rolled out these tools in your company, your probably not alone but adoption of these tools is on the rise.

These tools, when properly managed and deployed can lead to new forms of collaboration and opportunities. In fact, the simplicity of some tools allow for more rapid knowledge capture and sharing. In  State of Enterprise 2.0 Collaboration, the most active departments using these tools are Sales(47% active users) and Marketing (43%). The top tools being deployed are Blogs (70%), full featured platforms (60%), and microblogs(58%). General communications and employee collaboration was sited as two of the top reasons and benefits in deploying these tools.

Enterprise 2.0 in Construction

The ENR article, In Social Media, Some Conversations Are Best Kept Private, shares several examples of construction firms that are successfully leveraging enterprise 2.0 technologies. Over three hundred construction companies are experimenting with Yammer, a private microblogging service and one firm already has 10,000 participants. At ENR's FutureTech conference in April, CIOs that participated on my panel discussed solutions developed off of Microsoft Sharepoint as well as home grown systems developed off digital asset management systems.

IT's Role in Enterprise 2.0

If a technology hasn't been considered or selected, the CIO or head of IT should consider sponsoring a project for reviewing and recommending enterprise 2.0 collaboration tools. CIOs already have a strong understanding of how different departments and teams collaborate, or, when the lack of collaboration leads to silos of activity and knowledge. CIOs are in the best position to review these tools and narrow them down to a short list. CIOs should also help shift the cultural mindset within IT since they are sited as a source of resistance (17% according to the Chess Media Groups survey) in deploying these technologies.

Once technology options are identified, it is often recommended to select the most senior executive, ideally the CEO or COO to sponsor the project. This is a best practice and recommended by many experts as a step to insure the broadest adoption.