Integrating Social Networking, IT Needs Buy-In

Many large companies have spent years developing complex groupware applications to help their employees collaborate and communicate online. Applications like Microsoft’s SharePoint have proven to be quite popular. But today, the explosive growth of Web 2.0 apps and social networking tools are making out-of-the-box groupware solutions look stodgy, slow, and inflexible.

Social Networking and ITComputerworld’s done a case study of how consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton is using its own custom Hello application (somethingk like an in-house Facebook, ComputerWorld says) to incorporate "blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS feeds, personal profiles and other familiar social networking tools" to make the company move faster and better.

It’s an interesting read. "Since the August 2008 launch, more than 40 percent of the firm’s roughly 20,000 workers have added content to Hello," the magazine reports. "The portal now contains about 350 sub-communities devoted to various topics, even though participation is voluntary."

BAH looked at standard solutions before deciding it had to go its own way, building an app out of open source components in order to find a perfect fit for its rapidly growing organization. The cost so far: about $1 million.

"It was also crucial for the Hello team to cooperate with BAH’s main corporate IT staff because the portal depends on the company’s underlying network infrastructure and pulls in information from data warehouses and applications," a BAH rep told ComputerWorld. Indeed. So here’s a lesson: There’s no way to implement this kind of app without full buy-in across all the IT team, as well as the executive team.

— Don Willmott