Killer KM Apps Include Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs)

Stan Garfield

Stan Garfield

February 21, 2019

Too much focus on technology when implementing a KM program is a common problem. But you will still need to use software applications, so it’s important to understand them and leverage them in an optimal way. Suggestions for doing so include finding a “killer KM app”. Please read on for my thoughts on this topic, drawn from my book, Proven Practices for Promoting a Knowledge Management Program.

Find a killer app…and link knowledge management to it

A killer application is one that everyone wants to use, because it is widely perceived as being extremely valuable. In the early days of personal computers, killer apps included email, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. This resulted in Microsoft products such as Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint becoming ubiquitous.

Google Search was the first killer app of the Internet, but finding content within an enterprise has suffered in comparison. Working with IT, if you can make it easier for users to find what they are seeking, it will be a big win for your KM program.

In the current era of the Internet and smartphones, killer apps include Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Shazam, Uber, Yelp, and Spotify. These can change over time. For example: Google replaced AltaVista, MySpace and Friendster are no longer popular, and Vine has been retired.

To help sell your KM program, find a killer application within your organization. A killer app will get people to voluntarily sign up, enter and maintain their personal information, and continually expand their networks. Link your key knowledge initiatives to this killer app (e.g., sharing, innovating, reusing, collaborating, and learning).

Example: Using Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) in Knowledge Management

An example of a killer app is an enterprise social network. Previously known as threaded discussions, bulletin boards, listservs, and online discussion forums, enterprise social network capability has been around for over 30 years. VAX Notes conferences were in use at Digital Equipment Corporation in the 1980s. Tools publicly available on the Internet, such as Facebook and Google+, allow community members to post and reply online, by email, or by mobile app. This allows members to choose the communication channel they prefer.

Some ESNs require community members to post online. Such tools may offer email alerts, but these alerts link to a website where posts must be made. By not offering users a way of posting and replying entirely by email, community participation can be significantly curtailed.

Email is the killer app for communication. Although people frequently lament that they receive too much email, it is the only application that can be relied on for communicating with most corporate users. The participation rate in enterprise social networks can be maximized by taking advantage of this fact. ESNs should have email fully integrated (or provide mobile access) so that community members can read, post, and reply to discussions without having to be connected to the Internet or their corporate intranet, and without having to visit a website.

At HP, we used a tool called UBB.threads that did not have email functionality out of the box. Our initial implementation of HP Forums, using this tool, required users to visit an intranet site to post or reply to a thread. Adoption of this tool was limited until we added code to fully integrate email posting and replying. Once this was done, adoption increased significantly.

A good ESN should have the following functionality:

  • Post and reply in threads, including the ability to edit posts later
  • Share a post, including sharing into multiple groups at once
  • Like a post or a reply
  • Embed images and videos, including image and video thumbnails
  • Link to sites, including link thumbnails
  • Tag a post, including editing, merging, and deleting tags
  • Mention people to notify them
  • Create and join groups for communities, including allowing optional control of group creation to prevent redundant groups
  • Search, including advanced search and search with groups and tags
  • Subscribe to notifications in whichever way users want, including web, mobile, and email, including the option to receive all posts, a daily digest, or a weekly digest of all posts through email
  • Post and reply entirely by email or using a mobile app, with no need to visit a website
  • Praise other users
  • Conduct polls and surveys
  • Translate between languages
  • Ask questions, including tagging posts as questions and replies as answers, and finding all unanswered ones
  • Experience similar functionality and a familiar user interface on the web and in the mobile app
  • Obtain rich analytics to enable taking useful actions
  • Integrate with other tools such as SharePoint, personal profiles, enterprise search, Active Directory, Single Sign On, and external social media tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn

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