Wanted: Corporate Anthropologists

You know the story: The CEO orders up an internal "Facebook for the enterprise" to boost employee collaboration, but six months after deployment, it's a ghost town.

Getting users to adopt so-called Enterprise 2.0 technologies and reaping real business benefits from those implementations requires a different approach, according to The Corporate Executive Board, a research and advisory services company. CEB researchers recommend the following steps:

• First, identify the high-value business outcomes you want achieve, such as speeding up new-product development, before picking collaboration technologies.

• Identify the "collaboration hot spots." Interview employees to understand their communication habits and workflows.

• Select technologies that will improve or accelerate existing workflows. CEB researchers say that companies can achieve user adoption rates of 60% or more for technologies that accelerate workflow, such as mobility tools, unified communications and enterprise search. But user adoption falls below 40% for technologies that require workers to add something new to their workflows, like use a wiki or social network.

Mark Tonsetic, a manager in CEB's IT practice, said that boosting collaboration requires the skills of a corporate anthropologist who can observe office communication and suggest improvements.

"You can't hire 100 Margaret Meads," Tonsetic said, but you can find people inside and outside the organization who have skills in fields such as organizational design, user experience, knowledge management, information science, social media and storyboarding.

This is good news for IT pros who have or can acquire these skills, said Shvetank Shah, executive director of CEB's IT practice. "These are new jobs in IT with high demand and high sticker prices," he said. "These are six-figure jobs."

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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