New Workplace Social Network: HP Labs Collective Project
Imagine a workplace social network that discovers connections, mines data from office documents, and automatically mind-maps its discoveries around employees and their expertise. The Collective Project, a social collaboration tool created by Hewlett-Packard (HP) Labs and still in the research stage, is designed to demonstrate how a company might be able to automatically create an instantly accessible knowledge resource centered around its most valuable commodity--employees and their domain of expertise.
Social collaborative tools from companies such as IBM and Jive have been around for some time. They change the work process to a dynamic, social form by bringing a collaboration platform to the enterprise that helps to manage communications, group discussions, and information. Employees create their pages and profiles and update them as projects evolve or as their interest areas change. According to an article in Technology Review, The HP application differs in that it is a passive system that doesn't require users to input their information regarding their areas of expertise, or actively make their own connections to files and data. Rather, the system acts passively, indexing data, automatically assigning keywords to documents, adding employees, and making inferences about their expertise.
The notion of a passive social network is intriguing. Although HP may see the system as large business-centric, it seems very applicable to the needs of midsize business, particularly in terms of creating a useable archive of past project documents and proposal materials and maintaining a highly connected data store of lessons learned, all indexed with the internal experts who have knowledge of the projects. All too often in midsize companies, rich data troves languish as unmined archived material. Even if the IT analyst can access the data and create reports, it is tedious and time consuming and takes time away from higher-priority IT tasks.
Although the Collective Project is not yet ready for prime time, IT may wish to give some thought to how an enterprise-level social networking system might improve workflow and collaboration within the company, giving consideration to the benefits of connecting in-house experts and making documents and other company data accessible. Some midsize companies may already have internal content management systems that seem to fit their needs and that make data accessible and searchable. But IT needs to consider how scaleable these solutions are, particularly if the company is growing or if the solution seems to become more unwieldy or unhelpful as time goes by. Perhaps content management alone isn't the solution.
Workplace social networks are touted as making businesses run smoother, better, and faster. For midsize business, social tools may offer a way to bring company knowledge to the forefront and means to leverage past successes and data to new projects. With new research initiatives like HP's, hopefully, midsize businesses will continue to see new collaborative solutions that will fit their needs.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.