does enterprise social mean the end of the head office as we know it?

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There's been a lot written about the rise of social networking in the enterprise. Microsoft are bringing out new features in SharePoint, we've got things like Jive software as a service, Yammer... In fact, with the rise of off-/near-/right-shoring, contracting out, tele-working and mobile working, it's difficult to know where an enterprise actually begins and ends nowadays.

There's a debate going on within real estate departments about the role of the head office in the modern corporation and how to best use the investment that's already been made in office space.

Here at Orange we found that the amount of real estate assigned to each employee has gradually shrunk year on year. To give you an example, in my part of Orange in the UK we've now got approximately 600 employees sharing 200 desks under a program of flexible working and we've seen even more extreme ratios in other offices and in other enterprises we do business with.

So what's driving this? As individuals we seem to have strong individual preferences in the way we want to work. Extending our productive time on mobile devices; using instant messaging rather than talking to people on the phone. Most of the advantages of being in the office have gone as people use more and more cloud-based services both for accessing enterprise line of business applications and collaborating with each other.

The final advantage that the corporate location has is in people being able to interact with each other in social context which gives them the feeling of belonging. Enterprise social networking is attempting to replicate that feeling of belonging within the virtual world.

Will social networking be successful? Personally, I think the company over a cup of coffee is better in the office than alone at home.. I like to talk to people face-to-face. Maybe in 20 years we'll be sending our avatars to work rather than our physical selves in which case it won't matter where we are.

What's your view?

Peter

image © krzysztof siekielski - Fotolia

Peter Glock

With management roles in sales, marketing, and strategy I have over 30 years in IT and telecoms specializing in transformation projects.