Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Needed: Enterprise Strategies for Innovation, Content Management, and Social Media Infrastructure

Needed: Enterprise Strategies for Innovation, Content Management, and Social Media Infrastructure

By Dennis D. McDonald

Jeffrey Phillips’ blog post Innovation Location suggests that one of the management challenges that the innovation process creates is “… where should it be done, and who should be doing it?” He lists the following possible locations:

  • Within R&D and/or a product group
  • Across product groups
  • White Space innovation
  • Innovation between a business and a partner
  • Innovation in the open

Reading Phillips’ description of each of these locationsreinforced my belief in how closely related innovation management and collaboration via social media can be within an organization. Here is the comment I left on Phillips’ blog:

The “location” distinctions you make here are very similar to issues related to the question of where to “locate” the management and use of [collaboration and social media] tools. The interesting thing about both these discussions (assuming you can keep them separate!) is that they both have to take into account that an individual within an organization can simultaneously operate in several of these “locations.”

An individual in an organization can approach the use of social media or collaborative tools from several perspectives — as an individual, as a manager of a project, as part of a temporary project team, as part of a group that stretches across departments, etc. etc.

In the old days of hierarchical management structures and communication networks, adjusting to such realities was more difficult. Today an internal company blog can be set up instantly to support a project, a function, a team, or a product, and it carries with it a range of tools (commentingnting, document management, tagging, group membership and affiliation, etc.) that can be used immediately to support, say, an innovation process that might be taking place in any of your locations.

I think there must be a balancing act between applying structure and management to such processes and allowing them to evolve on their own, just as there is a balancing act between how much structure and process is appropriate to apply to managing the innovation process.

The more I think about how processes like innovation management can stretch across and into all aspects of an organization, the more it reinforce my strong belief that social networking and social media tools within an organization need to be thought of as part of the overall communication and information management infrastructure. That is, such tools should be universally available to all so that, when new groups and projects form there are no artificial barriers raised to interconnection and integration.

That seems counter to the practical approach that many people take to “starting small” within a group to begin a corporate or departmental blog or other tool. The benefit of starting small is that an effort can be initiated “under the corporate radar” so that an innovative process can grow organically and, through word of mouth, extend to other areas.

The downside, though, is that incompatibilities, roadblocks, and speedbumps might be introduced that undermine the true potential of social media and social networking within an organization.

The antidote to this is that corporate management needs to understand both how innovative practices spread throughout an organization at the same time it plans for an enterprise content management and communication infrastructure that provides the needed tools to workers where and when they need them.

Interestingly, one of the major vendors that realises this is IBM through its own internal networking support for its employees and through its recent product introductions that incorporate social networking and social media tools.

In future posts here I shall explore further the development of an enterprise content management strategy that takes into account the need to support multiple requirements including social networking, innovation, records retention, search, publishing, and regulatory and legal requirements.

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