How to Design a Corporate Social Network – Marc Ferrentino


Erik: So how has your approach to solving
problems that you’re having led you to developing social tools for the enterprise? Marc: So I had worked on the early concepts
around before Chatter was Chatter. The concepts of bringing — leveraging social
tools into the enterprise to help with collaboration and what do we do for the organization and
so the way the concept really came about was that I was looking at my own problems as someone
who had run engineering teams, run technology and product organizations. I was trying to figure out a way of basically
improving collaboration among the group and at the time this was 2007 or late 2006-2007. Started to play around with these concepts
of leveraging at the time it was Web 2.0 tools, Web 2.0 concepts inside of the enterprise. At the time the biggest — there wasn’t really
social media, there was Friendster and MyFace I think were probably the two big sites that
really were pushing the stuff but there was things like Delicious and Digg and a handful
of other collaborative kind of group sites coming up and so that was the beginning of
it, right? The beginning of this thought process, of
that — this progression of thought and so it started off by saying, “Okay, we have a
problem. Our problem is I’d like to communicate with
the organization in a better way.” Then it was what do I — let me start leveraging
these concepts or tools that are in the consumer space. This is — you can say is the consumerization
of IT or the consumerization of the enterprise, right? Bringing consumer concepts into the enterprise
you know 20 years ago used to be the enterprise driving concepts back out into the consumer
space that is — that time has come and gone. Now it’s the consumer space is now really
driving the enterprise as a whole and so this was a great example of that. Looking at all these different cool technologies
that people were using at the time, they were cool in 2006, 2007 and saying, “Well how — how
can I take this concepts and bring them in to the enterprise?” How do they change? Just simply taking something and dropping
it into the enterprise doesn’t mean it’s gonna work. What’s different about them? And then as we started to go a step further,
started to look at concepts of you know social bookmarking and feeds and the concept of a
corporate social network, which is a really interesting concept. And the more I thought about corporate social
networking I started to sit there and play around with the idea of, well is a consumer
— a personal social network the same as a corporate social network and it turns out
I was saying, “Well, no it’s not really.” In a personal or a Facebook-style you know
social network, a personal social network your nodes inside of that network is individuals,
right? They’re individuals connected to other individuals
and so on and so forth, right? And that becomes the web—the web of network. In the corporate world it’s a little different
because you know we’re all allowed to be friends with each other at work, that’s with work,
right? It’s to get our jobs done we need to be able
to interact with people. So it really doesn’t matter that I’m following,
or that I’m friends with somebody. So that concept really doesn’t apply anymore. So you say how do people gather in this — in
corporations. They usually gather around in a team orientation
or a project orientation or whether it’s an account team that’s, you know, that happens
for a period of time or it’s a R&D team or a project team or a marketing campaign, right? These are — these people are actually organizing
around units of work. So the nodes inside the corporate social network
are not people, it’s actually increments of work or teams or groups, right? And so now all of a sudden okay if you look
at it that way well that’s a little different. That’s not the same exact thing and so if
that’s the case well then what should we do? What’s the next thing? And so started — I started down the path
of saying, “Okay, it’s all about the team. The team is the increment.” And then it’s — and then the teams are connected
by people and then of course teams could be — then we started saying okay well it’s not
teams it’s groups because teams really implies something, there so much baggage with that
term and so you can see the kind of how it progressed over. Then it was about groups and then we said
well you know it’s just about groups. Well it is about groups but it’s also around
increments of data possibly or increments of work, right? And so a group is not the only increment of
work inside of a corporation there’s also a data so in Salesforce there was an opportunity. That’s a group but it’s also really it’s an
increment of data. So why wouldn’t there be a social network
around that, there should be and so my corporate social network is really about all the different
people that I’ve touched and worked with around these different nodes, right? That represent the different pieces of work
or gatherings inside the company and then those concepts were then taken in — then
the handful of other guys, the product team, basically took that and they made it very
— they made it very real. They took it out and it was obviously a big
success and you know it’s funny I feel like most people have not internalized like what
that really means, even today, you know, it’s always like “oh Facebook for the enterprise.” It’s not that simple, right. If that’s all your — if you’re just giving
it that headline you haven’t given a lot of thought on what it really means, right? So what was interesting about it is that all
of sudden if you have this network and you have this concept of data, of people organizing
around groups and teams and data and opportunities and things of that nature. Well, what’s the next thing that happens? Well of a sudden you start to flatten the
organization, you flatten visibility. Now these silos of groups have now — are
starting to disappear. Okay, this is anarchy and a control and command,
command and control hierarchy that exists in corporate cultures since the 1940s now
all of a sudden it’s you know there is no — everyone can see everything. There’s — middle management is under attack
right, you can argue, ’cause if they’re just simply brokers of information and they might
be you know their jobs could be in a little bit of jeopardy and so — and that’s not the
goal of it but it’s kind of a side effect in some cases. That if you’re not contributing value at different
tiers you kind of all of a sudden there’s more visibility into that. So which is interesting, right? And in addition to that you start seeing people
who are maybe contributing and stuck in a silo but really strong contributors begin
to elevate because then they have corporate social cred which starts to increase which
is very similar to the consumer concept of social cred but people get paid off this or
maybe they should be getting paid off of this, right? Then all of a sudden you got a guy who’s a
power broker, an information broker, he may be some random guy in the organization that
has no — he’s not a manager, he’s not a VP, he’s nothing, he’s just some random guy who’s
just really smart and everyone knows he’s smart and all the people — you know everyone’s
connected to him. Well wouldn’t it be good to know who that
person is and wouldn’t it be good to maybe reward him for his job and of course if that
person ever left knowing that hole in the network would all of a sudden you know would
exist. It’s another — like — that’s another difference
between the corporate social network and the consumer social network is that you pull one
of these guys out or node out of this thing your — you get — some of it can fall apart,
right? You have a passive communication that can
fall apart. So there’s really interesting effects that
happen, during this path kind of progressing and it all started from, “Hey, how do I run
a product organization better?” You know that was the beginning of it. That was my idea and the original problem
that I was trying to solve. It wasn’t even that elegant or grand but the
end result was something that I think is quite transformational for the corporate environment.

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