When it comes to the wondrous potential of social networking, there's been nothing but promises, promises, promises. But insurance companies concerned about delivering value to policyholders and maintaining their confidence can't afford to build new channels and information-sharing architectures on promises.
Some experts at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School recently weighed in on the business potential of social networking, and came up with some conclusions that may ease some concerns about investing time and resources in “faddish” technology.
The main issue is that there is a lack of concrete measurement on the impact of social networking on business returns, as pointed out by Shawndra Hill, a Wharton operations and information management professor. "Social networking in the enterprise sector is relatively new, and better tools can enable people to communicate across an organization. But before this really takes off, there needs to be some proof that these things are useful."
And, ultimately, the real proof in the pudding comes with examples of case studies that have put social networking to work within companies. We'll keep looking for and publishing examples that come up here in these pages.
In the meantime, the way social networking will ultimately help companies is the impact on productivity, both in the way employee work with each other, as well as with their external partners and customers. And this impact will grow as technologies and services are used on a widespread basis across organizations as part of day-to-day enterprise applications.=
As Kendall Whitehouse, director of new media at Wharton, put it: “Rather than companies buying an entirely new program, the current generation of enterprise software may evolve to the point where social networking features are standard, because businesses continue to desire the identity management, security and enterprise-level support of their existing systems. Today, social networking is being thought of as a separate thing. We'll see that fade over time, and it will become just part of the way we interact."
A classic lesson about successful technology adoption never gets old: Adopt new tools and approaches as they help the business, not just for the sake of adopting them.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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