Jakob Nielsen on social intranet software opening up corporate communication

Two years ago, I wrote: "We [communications professionals] need to learn to let go!" and figured that reading the Cluetrain Manifesto as a team would be a good place to start.

Earlier this year, in my Social Media Introduction for Communications and PR Professionals, I referred to Niall Cook's work on Enterprise 2.0 (slide 26), where he says:

"(…) 2009 will see the first wave of 'digital natives' that are so immersed in digital culture that they are completely unconcerned about the effects of their technology choices on their organizations. (…)"

And on slide 27, I showed a report by eWeek with the headline:

'Digital Natives Will Drive Web 2.0 into Your Business'

Now, judging from Jakob Nielsen's latest Alertbox, 'Social Networking on Intranets', social software is indeed entering the work place. Some takeaways from his report:

"(…) Perhaps more than any other corporate intranet innovation, social software technologies are exposing the holes in corporate communication
and collaboration — and at times filling them before the (usually
slow-moving) enterprise can fully grasp (and control) the flow. (…)

Underground efforts yield big results. Companies are
turning a blind eye to underground social software efforts until they
prove their worth, and then sanctioning them within the enterprise. (…)

Organizations must cede power. Using Web 2.0
technologies to communicate with customers has taught many companies
that they can no longer control the message. This also rings true when
using Web 2.0 tools for internal communication. Companies that once
held to a command-and-control paradigm for corporate messaging are
finding it hard to maintain that stance. (…)

[R]rather than saying: "X is hot on the Web, let's get it on the intranet," say: "We need to accomplish Y; can X help us?" (…)

[A] bunch of stand-alone tools will provide a disconnected user
experience, causing employees to waste inordinate amounts of time
moving between environments. (…)

It's also important to budget something for community management
— not to control the conversation, but rather to guide it. (…)

It's not enough to build knowledge; you need a feedback loop to bring
lessons back to sales, marketing, and other groups responsible for
getting things done. (…)

Widespread use of internal social media breaks down communication barriers.
(…) Ironically, corporate
communications departments sometimes resist the move to broader
communication. They're better served, however, in finding ways to
increase the value of new media rather than in trying to suppress it.

Corporate communications must adapt to social media's
real-time culture and become much more proactive than in the past.
Procedures that required days or weeks for approvals need dramatic
streamlining, or the story will run away on its own. (…)

It can be unnerving for traditionalist executives to see
employees freely discussing company strategies. But loosening control
of information on the intranet is a way to control a much bigger risk:
that employees will spill the beans on Internet-wide social media. When
people have internal media at their disposal, they'll post their
questions and comments there, as opposed to going outside. (…)

banning anonymity is one of the first governance steps that all organizations should take when implementing social networking. (…)"