August 30, 2012, 10:16 AM — If your organization's social media initiatives have fizzled more than fostered debate, don't despair: yours isn't the only one. Social media has taken the mainstream by storm, but its adoption in the business world has been more uneven. Why is the road to better internal discussion often so rocky?
Yammer is a freemium enterprise social networking tool with 5 million users across 200,000 companies, and a $1.2 billion sale to Microsoft under its belt. Company co-founder and CTO Adam Pisoni says that all-too-frequent communication issues stem from the predictable, hierarchical mindset found in many businesses. The solution lies in listening to "lazy" employees, he says--and applying "bring your own device" (BYOD) principles to software as well as hardware.
"I was speaking to a very senior IT leader at a large Fortune 500 company, and she was telling me that they had spent a lot of money on a content management system for their employees," Pisoni told me in a telephone interview. "They had this large, complex, difficult to use CMS, and for some reason, her employees were 'too lazy' to use it, and instead they were bringing in their own tools.
"I couldn't help but be struck that this seemed totally backwards. She was saying that because her employees wouldn't use this byzantine thing that wouldn't work very well, they must be lazy. And I was thinking that the reason they weren't using it is not because they're lazy, but because they're essentially trying to innovate" and work around artificial limitations imposed by officially sanctioned social media tools.
Consumerization Is from Mars, Corporations Are from Venus
According to Pisoni, a major schism occurred once employees could find better technology on the streets than in the office. Consumer technology keeps advancing, innovating, and redefining itself at a blistering pace. But rather than embracing change, the business world battened down the hatches and dictated which tools employees can use in the workplace.
"(Out of the consumer space) you've seen the rise of social networks, which have been the most successful software of all time," Pisoni says. "Facebook is the most successful anything of all time, getting to a billion users in so few years. It's funny; compare that to social media initiatives in companies today. A recent Gartner story said that 70% of IT-dominated social initiatives fail. So you have this weird dichotomy where in the consumer world, the most popular tools are the social tools, but in the office, they're the most failed tools.