Curbing Tribal Warfare
The Bedside Trust, a health care industry consultancy, sought to give its clients social networking tools. "E-mail and IM are not enough," said Jonathan Long, executive vice president of Bedside Trust. "You don't develop a true dialogue. They may help you get a task done, but you need a social dialogue to solve problems. And hospital problems are very complicated." Hospitals, according to Long, are often beset by "tribal warfare" among physicians, nurses, administrators and even food service providers.To help in that effort, Bedside Trust makes a hosted version of the Socialcast social networking platform available to its clients. Socialcast's simple user interface was important. "It's like a Facebook for the enterprise. Some products get loaded down with features, and they get in the way. Simplicity is better," said Long, who praised features that let users explore the network to find people with similar titles, see their faces, exchange e-mail and post questions. "Physicians can share pharmaceutical information. It's fantastic," said Long. So far, Bedside Trust is still in the early stages of Socialcast deployment, with approximately 50 participants. At IBM, 53,000 employees use a homegrown social networking tool called Beehive. An IBMer's Beehive page typically contains his or her work history and pictures. "Formerly, you had to walk into someone's office to get a sense of a person," said Carol Sormilic, an IBM vice president. Beehive works hand in hand with IBM's corporatewide employee directory called Blue Pages, which surfaced commercially in Lotus Connections. IBM is tying Beehive and Blue Pages into additional Web 2.0 tools, including blogs, wikis and the company's Twitter-like application, called BlueTwit, which has some 2,000 users so far. The company also encourages "crowdsourcing," in which expertise on a given topic is solicited from the social network community. Microsoft uses the social networking features it has added to SharePoint Server to help build cohesion within the company. One such feature is My Site. "It's like a corporate Facebook. Employees are all profiled, and you can search across that profile, like yellow pages," said Christian Finn, director of product management for SharePoint at Microsoft. Finn agrees with Sabre's Johnson that social networking in a company must be different from its consumer counterparts. "Deploying social networking in an enterprise is different than friending people on Facebook," he said. "Inside of Microsoft, everybody has a My Site. The My Site network is a closed system. It does not integrate with consumer networks." Once they've found each other via My Site, Microsoft employees collaborate using blogs, wikis and podcasts, said Finn.
"Our mission is to transform these cultures," Long said. "We needed new methods to get people communicating."