Can social networking improve product development process?

By NikPakvasa

We have heard all the buzz around social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. The question is how one uses Social Networking in a product development process. How can we leverage this to improve ideation, collaboration, knowledge sharing, etc? We must separate enterprise Social networking from casual Social networking ala Facebook. You can also apply social networking techniques internally to develop your products faster, better, and cheaper. Wikis, blogs, instant messaging, videoconferencing, and team sites are all capabilities that can be leveraged in your product development process.

Here is short list of few use cases that comes to my mind:

1. Wikis – A wiki is a collaborative website. A wiki is essentially a database for creating, browsing, and searching through information. Wiki’s are used to create collaborative websites, to power community websites, for capturing best practices, processes and policies; all authorized users can contribute to the wiki, it grows from the collective experience, and serves as a knowledge capture & retention mechanism.
2. Blogs – A blog is a type of website with regular entries of commentary, ideas, information, etc. Blogs used internally to enhance the communication and culture in a corporation or externally for marketing, branding or public relations purposes are called corporate blogs.
3. Instant Messaging (IM) – is now ubiquitous. We are all familiar with it. IM now includes audio as well video.
4. Presence – technology that allows you to see when other people are online. People think of presence as the instant messaging list, but the truth is that presence can be embedded into any application or document. This is very useful when you are collaborating with a large team and have a specific question. You can see if the person is online or not and if he/she is online you can send an instant message from within any application.
5. Search for resources with specific capabilities, knowledge, experience, etc.
6. Visual conferencing – we know all about video conferencing. Visual conferencing is about ability to collaborate visually by sharing your desktop application with the team. This allows you to review your projects, specifications, designs, etc and get instant feedback.

The benefits of social networking in your product development environment could be huge. However, like every technology the challenge is to integrate it with the business processes, and overcoming the cultural barriers. Social networking is no different than any other new technology.

There is raging debate in the blogosphere about Facebook-like Social networking in Enterprise software. Here is a very interesting post “Is the Facebook imperative really so great for Corporate America?” by Larry Dignan, the chief editor of ZDNet and SmartPlanet.

Social Networking, like Facebook and Twitter, can provide important insight into customer input. It is also a way to engage with your customers directly. Here is very interesting case study about example how Comcast leverages Twitter to interact with customers. In the future, with Mashups, language parsing and data mining tools, we probably will see companies find rich nuggets of their customer insight from the chatter on Facebook, twitter, etc for product and service competitive advantage.

Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity just wrote a great whitepaper on this topic. You can get it here.
Over the next few months we will explore customer examples where they have enriched their product development environment by adding social networking.

What do you think?

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at