With all of the talk about enterprise social-everything-software these days, it can be tough to understand what all of it means. Frankly, it almost seems as though every vendor, blogger, tech journalist and analyst simply uses the same half-dozen words -- enterprise, social, networking, intranet, collaboration, platform -- and just rearranges them into a different order, proclaiming it to be the latest and greatest new product.
The reality, is that there are some distinct differences between these types of platforms and their functionality that you need to know before your company makes a decision.
Let's take a look at your options, pros and cons.
What's the difference?
Let's start with the basics.
On one end of the spectrum, an intranet is a conventional static website with access restrictions that allow only individuals inside the organization to enter its pages. Intranet software evolved as a way for the company to communicate information to employees (read: one way only).
At the other end is the enterprise social network, or ESN. This is much like Facebook -- a free-flowing newsfeed where anyone inside the company can post, share, comment, follow, like, etc. It's essentially an open, stream-of-consciousness style conversation.
Social intranet software lives somewhere in the middle, combining the best of both worlds. These platforms facilitate conversation in all directions -- management-to-employee and vice versa, and peer-to-peer discussion among employees -- with added tools to facilitate knowledge management, document management, collaboration, calendaring, activity streams, chat, blogs, wiki and more all in a single platform.
ESNs provide only a few parts of the puzzle: social sharing and communication. Because of their limitations, many companies are then forced to use multiple other tools, usually with different log-ins and different locations, to manage all aspects of their workflow and communication, such as:
and perhaps other channels, like IM, texting, telephone and video conferencing, etc.
Having all these different tools in different places, with different logins and usually with limited integrations, causes headaches over time, because it promotes the creation of information silos. And, once you start building information silos, it becomes extremely difficult to connect them and provide a single interface or location to search and access content/knowledge/information in context.
Social intranet software combines all of this functionality onto a single platform, marrying social collaboration, document and knowledge management, and communication together in one cohesive system.
How does this help?
For virtually any size or type of business, feature-rich, fully customizable social intranet software offers more functions, options and flexibility than an ESN solution, which translates directly to a bigger and better bang for your buck.
Tim is a co-founder and president of Axero and the author of his forthcoming book, Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Break Down the Invisible Barriers to Employee Engagement. He's spilt insightful ink on the pages of Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur.com, CNBC, Today, and other top publications.
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