Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Tomoye / communities of practice


Bersin also notes that many social software providers have formed partnerships with Microsoft around its SharePoint product, allowing the two applications to compliment each other.

In some ways, Sharepoint is a competitor to these systems but the vendors have realised that Sharepoint is so ubiquitous that it makes sense to coopt it rather than compete against it.  In addition, Sharepoint is being positioned as a business productivity rather than a social application.

One of these providers that are seeking to add value to Sharepoint is is Tomoye.  I had a conversation with their Chief Executive, Eric Sauve, a few months ago.  Sauve explained that Tomoye has traditionally been focused on communities of practice which act as knowledge or intellectual capital clearing houses within a particular domain area and integrate the capabilities of wikis, discussion boards etc.  They are particularly useful for learning and development, and in connecting people across enterprises, particularly in an extended supply chain.

Sauve gave healthcare as an example - the things a doctor needs to know how to do are always changing and developing and communities of practice are being used to develop relationships between peers which doctors find are the best way of gaining advice rather than reading lots of different studies.

However, Tomoye have been developing their applications into broader social networking and believe that the addition of social aggregation tools, tags, networking, blogs and the ability to rate items etc make these more appealing to people than traditional communities of practice as they are built around peoples' personal profiles rather than thematic areas of knowledge.  So people can find things that are relevant to them and can interact with this content.

Tomoye's approach is further described in the Bersin report.  This explains that one approach to introducing social software applications into learning or talent management is to focus on a single, high priority learning programme that provides a resulting community with a broad taste of social media systems.

Bersin then explain that Tomoye offers another path:

"Instead of blending several social functions with a single program, focus on a single social function and use.  Then, create very low overhead ways for users across the enterprise to engage with that function.  This approach allows you to expose many more parts of the organization to the possibilities of networks, allowing the enterprise to answer the question of "where can such tools provide the most business impact?

Tomoye also provides one very common example use case, on which to base network-building efforts: knowledge-sharing, or question-and-answers.  Use the social platform to provide a method for employees to 'Ask the Experts' within their organization.  Leverage the discussion forums or blogging functions within a social software application, like Tomoye, to jump start communities without their even knowing it."

Bersin also provide the following graphic depicting Tomoye's 'wedge strategy':



I think this relates to the debate on whether social media should be introduced with a major launch or under the radar.


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