Last week, a few of us from the Horn Group attended GigaOm's Net:Work conference and enjoyed a spirited session with Marc Benioff being interviewed by Victoria Barrett. Marc's focus was squarely on the impacts of social tools in the enterprise and specifically how Safesforce.com is using their own tool, Chatter, to improve collaboration.
This is of particular interest to me because we've been using Yammer internally at the Horn Group and it has drastically changed how we communicate - especially across our New York and San Francisco offices. Of course, Marc being Marc, he had some particularly strong opinions on the subject of social tools in the enterprise. Below are a few highlights from the discussion.
How are social tools changing the enterprise?
Social in the enterprise is about flattening the organization and bringing out people who are high value but not visible to the leadership (he referred to these individuals as "chatterotti").
What are the advantages of employing social tools?
Social tools introduce a new level of collaboration. Previously, unstructured user-generated data was at best siloed within an organization and more commonly lost forever. Social tools capture, collect and combine this knowledge and in turn create better products and more informed business decisions.
How does this change leadership?
Social opens up the leadership and exposes them to more of the company. At Salesforce's executive meetings they broadcast and Chattered about the topics, recording the entire meetings and capturing the Chatter. In Marc's opinion this is the future of leadership.
A new way to recognize productive employees:
SFDC is developing an analytics product for Chatter and have been using it internally to identify the most valuable social contributors at the company. These people are rewarded financially at the same level as an EVP because, in Benioff's view, they are contributing to the company at the same level.
What about a "Wikileaks in the enterprise" situation?
The threat of a rouge employee doesn't really change between the cloud and an on-premise product. If anything, an open communication network can help prevent resentment that previously unacknowledged employees would experience because they're able to understand more about the company as well as be heard.
Attacks on the viability of the cloud
Ideas like "private clouds" are legacy thinking by old giants trying to slow down progress so they can milk cash cows and keep customers from deploying better technology from competitors (like Salesforce!)
The future of work is about embracing new technologies that reflect how we work now. Companies need leadership teams who aren't afraid to take risks - eventually they will be rewarded with improved productively and more growth opportunities generated from employees within the company. Organizations need to think like startups, recognize that everything has changed and make the changes quickly or get left behind.
The more things change, the more they stay the same
Fundamentally the open culture is still about trusting your employees, and this has always been the number one value.
A pretty entertaining session by a riled-up Marc. It's hard to argue that social tools aren't fundamentally changing how we communicate at work. Obviously there are some questions about how quickly companies can make these changes and how much they embrace this new thinking (is your company ready to pay a heavy social contributor like a SVP?). However it shakes out, how we communicate at work in 5 years is bound to be significantly different that today. I can't wait.
Side note – Net:Work was a great show, kudos to the GigaOm crew. I also attended a session on remote workers and will have a follow up post about some the research and different ways that employers are using tools to be more productive when they're away from the office.