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.

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