Tools & Technologies

Socialtext Helps Companies Find the People Inside – The Static to Social Intranet

Socialtext released Socialtext 4.6, the latest edition of its enterprise social software platform. The key focus is on making the intranet more “social”:

First generation intranets and portal technologies have aggregated enterprise systems and enabled self−service for IT and HR tasks. They have been document repositories that make it difficult for people to find what they need to get their job done. And since content requires IT’s help to update, intranets quickly become stale and outdated.

With its focus on people, Socialtext’s secure enterprise social software platform improves intranets by making it simple to communicate and share, access content and rich media, and create a personalized intranet experience. Socialtext also empowers IT with the tools it needs to extend and manage the platform, providing their company with an intranet that maximizes business value.

The specific Socialtext tools include:
– Signals, a Twitter-like service for internal people. Presence is integrated with Signals now, via integration with Lotus Sametime and Microsoft Office Communicator. Public services are supported too.
– Signals Notifications allow people to see new Signals on their desktop / via a pop-up, without having to be in Signals. This only works on Google Chrome or via an extension to Firefox.
– An summary of interesting Signals, delivered to people by email.
– Personalization of the intranet homepage via widgets.

My Comments
Yes, first-generation intranets were about content publishing and other stuff, but many firms have been experimenting with integrating collaboration and people into the intranet before today. So I don’t accept the implication of Socialtext’s announcement and phrasing that all intranets are only at a first-generation stage today, and that Socialtext is delivering the first innovation to take it to stage 2. Leading firms have been doing more for a number of years. See Designing intranets by James Robertson of Step Two for more on the “five fundamental purposes” of intranets – of which collaboration and culture play a prominent role. Regardless, well done to Socialtext for enabling organizations to do more with their intranets.

Any time you make a system “the place where work gets done” (compared to “the place where you go to read news or look at your 401K) – you will get higher adoption. So it’s good to see that Socialtext is supporting this transition, and that its customers are seeing the adoption pull-through as a result. You can read my book on user adoption on this too.

The universal advice about the “new email pop-up” notification, from a productivity perspective, is to turn it off and get on with your work. The new notifications for Signals will suffer a similar fate I’m afraid – it’s a good idea in principle, but unless it can be very controlled in a very fine-grained way, and delivers relevant material constantly that enhances current and immediate work, it will merely overload people significantly. Rather than getting 10 new email pop-up notifications an hour, now you will potentially get 10 every few minutes. While it is possible in theory that tying people this closely to Signals updates will enable the better delivery of value, my sense is that for most people, it will quickly become an annoyance. What do you think?

If intranets are to perform a collaborative function for organizations, there needs to be a degree of commonality expressed in the pages, the layout, and the messaging throughout. While, indeed, the new widgets allow for personalization “at every turn,” doing so too extensively may lead to a company of isolated individuals rather than a collective of connected individuals. I’d be wary about too much personalization as a “good thing.”

Categories: Tools & Technologies

5 replies »

  1. Michael, nice writeup! It seems there is a growing consensus that companies can greatly improve their intranets by making them social, and that the Intrant is in turn a powerful driver of social software adoption. It’s a win-win.
    While you’re right that some companies have already integrated collaboration into their intranets, I’m shocked at just how “early-2000s” or even “late 1990s” most Intranets are. Asocial intranets are, I think, still very much the majority.

  2. Thanks Michael – appreciate you stopping by. I’m delighted that you are offering capabilities to make a difference – looking forward to hearing more over time.

  3. Thanks for the great read. You really hit some great points. I couldn’t agree more with your comments about widgets. Too much personalization is a very bad thing.
    We have a great real world example of this, Facebook vs. Myspace. Myspace gave users way to many options to customize and personalize their pages which has resulted in them losing out to Facebook who gave their users an simple, intu­itive user expe­ri­ence. Too many Myspace customers went crazy with customizations and turned their pages into monsters. Facebook still allows their users to personalize their page but within templates to prevent monsters appearing and have won with this approach because it works.
    I believe we are going to see a very similar evolution emerge in the Enterprise Social Software market where ‘monsters’, those that use widgets, are going to impact productivity rather than improve it. (Employee productivity improvements is one of the biggest reasons why enterprises are seeking this software in the first place). The Enterprise Social Software vendors that take the Facebook “template” approach and the enterprises that adopt this kind of technology are the ones that are going to succeed in this strategy.
    Tom Kelly (Moxie Software) wrote a great Blog post on this topic in January:
    Nick Bell (Moxie Software)

  4. Thank you Michael for a great article. We have been evaluating socialtext for a few weeks and our users have found social network software to be very useful in a corporate environment. We have also evaluated other software such as Akeni Social Networking and we have still not decided on the software platform to use.