RealTime IT News

Top Five Barriers Social Networks Face

Blogs, wikis and other social network-type applications are popular among consumers, but large companies continue to struggle with questions as to how, or even if, they should implement the new Web technologies.

That's the conclusion of research firm Gartner that is conducting ongoing research into the socialization of IT and plans to release a major study on the topic later this year. Gartner believes most enterprises that don't seriously evaluate and develop a social networking strategy will be missing huge opportunities and could lose out to more Web-savvy competitors.

"I personally believe nothing in IT is nearly as impactful as the socialization of IT and that includes Green IT and cloud computing," Anthony Bradley, Gartner analyst and co-lead on the study, told InternetNews.com.

The reason for Bradley's bullish assessment is that he says social networks promise to change the way employees and consumers participate in their work and consume products respectively.

But Gartner has identified what it says are five major challenges organizations face in adopting the social networking technologies. The report, released today, states the challenges will have lesser or greater importance to the specific needs of individual organizations and each must weigh the business benefit of what it will take to overcome them.

For example, Bradley notes defense companies don't want to share all their ideas with the general public, and that makes sense. "If the information is of such an important nature that the benefit doesn't outweigh the risk, than there's no need for a wiki or a blog," said Bradley. "And if you can get everyone in a room that needs to be involved in a sensitive issue, whether it's financial service or pharmaceuticals, that's fine."

One of the five "challenges" on Gartner's list is "Delivering Business Value." Here the issue is enterprise customers may want to explore the benefits of social software, but are confused by the hype surrounding Web 2.0. Gartner suggests all organizations should, at a minimum, be investigating social software options, even if it's on a "wait-and-see" basis, rather than an "ignore it and it will pass" basis.

The second is "Overcoming Cultural Barriers" which basically has to do with traditional command and control organizations, adapting to the more collaborative style and sharing of information that social software enables.

Third is "Ensuring Privacy." Here Gartner notes the privacy issues related to Facebook, MySpace and others are public Web sites are very different than what a more closed or restricted enterprise network could offer. "I try to draw a line between security and privacy, which need to be managed differently," said Bradley. "A lot of the security aspects with social software are similar to what you would implement for any Web site or collaborative environment.

"You hear e-mail is a security problem, but are they breaking into the system or is it about users disseminating IP? You can't control someone posting information on FaceBook," he added.

The last two challenges are about governing participants behavior and managing personal and professional time. On the behavior issue, Gartner suggests social networks depends more on good policies and enforcement by participants rather than elaborate rules.

On the time management issue, Gartner notes the easy accessibility of social software let's employees contribute beyond the traditional 9 to 5 workday and many will be motivated to so. As social software becomes more pervasive in business environments, Gartner recommends organizations rethink the way they evaluate employee productivity and promote work/life balance.