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  • Posts tagged ‘privacy’

    Transparency, Access and Focus: Getting the Most From Enterprise Social Software

    I recently had a series of conversations with customers to get their input on some upcoming capabilities. The conversations included a variety of stakeholders and participants in each organization. Each conversation triggered thoughtful reflection and lively debate among participants about how their organization should use social software for the right mix of transparency, focus, and security.

    I’ll tell the story, do some analysis, and talk about what it means for how your organization can get the most out of Enterprise 2.0.

    South Australia Office of the Premier

    At the South Australian Department of the Premier and Cabinet, the discussion was about whether to hold conversations among a larger group, or within smaller enclaves. They use Socialtext Signals heavily for Q&A to tap into the expertise of a broad range of employees and to share resources that are valuable across the organization.

    Several managers advocated in favor of holding and keeping the conversations in smaller groups, while others pushed for more enterprise wide discussions. A member of the risk management group raised concerns about security. A project manager gave a counter-example, talking about value she sees in asking questions and getting answers from the larger group.

    Eventually, the manager weighed in. He said that the goal they were striving for in their use of social software was increased transparency. Part of the goal was to move the culture toward greater openness and transparency. Sure, there is the possibility that someone might make a mistake. But people use email every day and make decisions about what information to share with whom. It’s better to share the goals and trust people’s judgement.

    Getty Images

    At Getty Images, the conversation took the opposite direction. Getty Images is a major distributor of digital images and stock photography. They are using Socialtext broadly among their sales, marketing and service professionals.

    At Getty Images, people are using Signals to ask questions about the broad range of products and services the company offers. They are also using it to promote new campaigns, share reports and good news. A sales manager boasted that “we rocked the Emmies last night.” But people were starting to feel like the discussion in the larger group was too much information. At Getty Images, they are starting to steer people to hold some discussions in smaller groups. The reason is not security, but to improve signal to noise.

    Also, the Getty Images team is finding that brand new users sometimes share things that other people find to be irrelevant and trivial right when they get started. But then they see what others do, and learn from others’ practices, and adapt to the norms of sharing what people feel is relevant.

    GT Nexus

    GT Nexus is a company that makes software for the shipping and transportation industry. At GT Nexus, there was a lively debate among representatives of IT, engineering, product management, design and customer support about the need to share enterprise wide versus in smaller groups. On one hand, some product management and design team members were collaborating in private groups. Meanwhile, an engineering manager was encouraging them to post more publicly across groups.

    The debate didn’t conclude during that meeting. But GT Nexus will be able to use self-join groups and workspaces where they can collaborate in smaller groups without disturbing others, while valuable information is still being to others via browsing and search.

    Analysis and recommendations

    In all of these situations, the ability to share both broadly and narrowly, more publicly and more privately, set up a lively internal discussion about how broadly and narrowly to share different sorts of things. Each organization needed to think through its own culture and information needs, and come up with guidelines and heuristics about what to share with whom. Also in all of these cases, adoption timeline comes into play. People’s initial impulse is to share “too much” or “too little”, and the adoption process is about settling on the norms and accommodating people’s behavior to these norms.

    Overall, the value of enterprise social software comes from increasing transparency, so that more people in the organization have access to the people and information they need. Transparency is tempered by two different factors – the need for security, and the need for focus. If too much information broadly shared, and too much is said out loud, everyone drowns in the noise.

    Enterprise social software needs to enable organizations to manage, focus, and access along both of these axes:

    1. Security is provided through private groups that are visible to members only
    2. Focus is provided by small groups where activity can be easily discovered, and interested parties can join

    It is business decisions and cultures, not features, that enable organizations to gain the benefits of appropriate transparency and access. People need to decide, and develop shared culture, about when to share and ask publicly, and when to refrain from distracting their colleagues. Employees need to understand what information must be kept confidential, and what problems would benefit from increased insight and collaboration from a broader audience.

    The implementation of social software catalyzes important conversations and requires important decisions about transparency, access, and focus in your organization. There is no one right answer, and getting it right takes key decisions about what’s right for your organization, and tools that let you tune for your company’s goals.

    Socialtext VP of Products Adina Levin To Speak at Social Business Edge on Monday

    On Monday, Socialtext’s VP of Products and co-founder Adina Levin (@alevin) will be speaking at the Social Business Edge event in New York City. The topic of her talk will be “Open For Business: Privacy in an Open World,” and you can watch it live on the conference website.

    The event begins at 9:30 a.m. eastern, and we expect Adina’s talk to occur sometime shortly after 12 p.m. eastern, so be sure to stay tuned online and follow the Socialtext twitter handle throughout the day.

    Adina’s talk should serve as nice follow up to a post written this week by our CEO, Eugene Lee (@eugenelee), about the complex and sophisticated privacy model we have baked into our products. From an architectural perspective, Adina and her team think very deeply about how the power to share information using social tools must be countered with businesses unique privacy needs. In her talk Monday, Adina plans to discuss how privacy is still very much alive in the age of social tools. She’ll also highlight the importance of context in sharing information with social technologies.

    This will be the inaugural year for the Social Business Edge event, which will be hosted by Stowe Boyd (@stoweboyd), a widely recognized expert on social tools and their effect on business, media and society. While the room will be packed with luminaries and practitioners in the enterprise social software world, you can watch it at home. We encourage you to watch it live. The Twitter hashtag for the event will be #sbenyc.

    Meanwhile, stay tuned for Eugene’s upcoming keynote at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston in June, where the topic will center around the business value of social software.


    Architecture Matters – Privacy in the Social Platform

    This week I had an engaging conversation with Mike Gotta of Burton Group, whose enterprise and architecture chops are as strong as anyone I know. Concerning enterprise social software, Mike says he’s seeing an increase in the breadth and depth of questions from his clients about security, privacy, control, and regulatory compliance. As I talked about Socialtext at a platform and architectural level, he encouraged me to talk about it more openly, so here goes.

    Enterprise 2.0 requires much deeper thinking than merely copying Web 2.0 patterns, throwing in a little SSL and email integration, and charging money for it. In order for enterprise social software to enjoy long term success, vendors must recognize the importance of security, privacy, identity, IT policies and procedures, and architectural fit, etc. The entire team at Socialtext has deep enterprise pedigrees, and that experience has been key to the robust architectural and design choices we’ve made over the years.

    In our early days, we learned a great deal about the dynamic tension between privacy and collaboration from pioneering the use of wikis in the enterprise. On one hand, we learned that too much privacy is an anti-pattern for collaboration and social software adoption. For example, if different pages in the same workspace have different privacy settings, people can get very confused about who can see or edit which content. On the other hand, we also learned that granular privacy can dramatically encourage collaboration because it helps people feel comfortable about the context of the group and the people with whom they are sharing. People naturally understand what’s appropriate to be shared in the “virtual watercooler” or “social intranet,” while the “Leadership Huddle Workspace” gives executives the confidence to discuss confidential or sensitive topics without worrying about leaks.

    As we embarked on building out our complete Enterprise social software suite, we wanted to build a sophisticated privacy model into the architecture. It’s important for privacy rules and patterns of user experience to be as consistent as possible. This is key not only for enforcement, but also for adoption. I’m pretty proud of how well this has held up since we introduced Socialtext 3.0 back in September 2008, and especially since we rolled out our enterprise microblogging capability, Socialtext Signals.

    To illustrate our privacy strength, take a look at how we implemented “Edit Summary,” which lets you summarize your edits to a wiki page. Some examples of edit summaries you might write: “Added links to Mike Gotta’s blog post” or “reorganized the lead paragraph.” Alongside edit summaries, we added a nice little feature called “Signal this edit”. If you choose to “signal this edit,” Socialtext sends the text of your edit summary out as a Signal (a short microblogging message) to your colleagues.– That signal will also contain a link back to the page you just edited. And it’s here where privacy safeguards are so important. What if the page you were editing was in a confidential workspace called “Acquisition Planning,” and the page was titled “Functions to be combined and reduced”? Could someone accidentally Signal this edit to the whole company?

    The answer is no, and that’s because of the Socialtext platform’s underlying privacy architecture. The Signal you send, regardless of how broadly you send it (accidentally even), will only be visible to those people who have view privileges to that confidential workspace. From a technical perspective, this privacy is enforced on the server side. It is not an exercise left to the developer writing client-side code, a key to enforcing privacy rules in a consistent manner.

    Privacy is a design pattern in the Socialtext platform. It applies to visibility (who can see a Signal, a group, a page) and participation (public vs. private vs. semi-private groups). This is on top of the fact that security is a core capability of our platform – whether it’s our shared hosted service, or our SaaS appliance that customers install inside their own firewalls. We’ve been thinking about and working on this for a long time – Adina Levin has written a few blog posts on the importance of privacy in enterprise social software, which I encourage you to read: Data Sharing, Context, and Privacy, What’s Different about Enterprise Twitter?, and Enterprise OpenSocial – A Year of Progress

    But we never waver in our attention to these issues. We’re constantly listening to our customers and industry experts to see how we can make it better. It excites us that our customers do mission critical work inside our product, and our team constantly makes improvements in our agile development cycle to keep up with their complex privacy and security requirements.

    About This Blog

    Weblog on gaining business results from social software.

    On this blog, Socialtext staffers and customers explore how companies can gain the most business value from their use of enterprise social software, including microblogging, social networking, filtered activity streams, widget-based dashboards, blogs and wikis.


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