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01 Mar 2010

The modern workplace is changing.  Knowledge used to be power and keeping that knowledge to one’s self kept you in a position of power, but the new generation of employees and a new wave of tools is changing that. Now, the importance is placed on sharing information to solve problems and create innovation and new solutions. Enterprise social software is designed to bring social software into the enterprise. It goes beyond the intranet to provide collaboration, social networking, web tools and even innovation management into the enterprise. These tools have been around for a while now, but the adoption and use of them has really only begun since the consumer tools struck mainstream. Facebook and Twitter have done a lot to reshape ideas about how you can find and share information with people. "Social networks make it easy for participants to share unstructured and ad hoc information that can decrease the time it takes to find information to solve problems. Social networks also encourage employees to help each other," wrote Caroline Dangson, a research analyst at IDC. The big IT companies have all released products into this space – Microsoft (Sharepoint), Lotus (Connections) and even Cisco are trying to bring together collaboration suites. However, before jumping to the largest platforms, there are some smaller, more niche companies out there that are worth looking at. The following are some tools you might want to investigate: Yammer Yammer is a micromessaging platform similar to Twitter. However unlike Twitter, it allows only people within the enterprise to access it. Channels can be set up for particular conversation needs, such as product ideas, or customer service. Most of the best interaction on Yammer, however, comes from just having a group of people in the general channel solving problems. I have seen a frustrating problem solved within minutes of being posted on Yammer. This crosslinking of information and relationships helps strengthen and drive companies. Spigit Spigit is a relatively new innovation management tool. It lets people from all over the company submit ideas, and can allow people externally to contribute too. You can find experts in particular fields, and rank and sort their ideas. This is one of the emerging ways to find a particular product or service niche that you may be overlooking. Often your staff will have an idea or part of the solution, but by collaborating a better outcome is achieved. Wiki Internal wiki software is quite common these days – we even have one for running our household! SocialText, TWiki and even open source versions are ones to look at for your enterprise. They allow a collaborative place for information to be stored. I have seen this work particularly well in call centre environments where information can be shared quickly and easily amongst staff. Wave Google Wave (beta) is causing a stir. It is a collaboration tool that is a mashup of email, messaging, video, pictures and text. Anybody can start a ‘wave’ on a particular topic, and it collates all the information so you don't have to search through all your emails to find something. It's not built for enterprise use yet; however expect to see similar examples being launched quite quickly.  These tools connect people and resources to make knowledge transparent and available to all, while being easy to deploy and simple to use. This year will see more companies adopting enterprise collaboration tools as a standard business process. Harnessing the knowledge of your people and giving them a voice inside the company will strengthen the enterprise and the enjoyment of the people in it.