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Enterprise Collaboration: Debunking Common Misperceptions

06.27.2013
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As social business software becomes entrenched on the enterprise scene, now would be a good time to put to rest some common misperceptions and myths that have hung ominously over the space.

Myth #1:  Social software isn’t subject to regulatory guidelines

Social media and social software may be new forms of communication, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be logged and archived for regulatory compliance purposes.  In the eyes of the regulatory bodies (think SEC, FINRA, FERC, and similar), social software is just another form of electronic communication to be treated no differently than email.  That means that content posted to social software platforms needs to be supervised, logged, and archived to ensure compliance with applicable recordkeeping and monitoring provisions.  Since social software greatly facilitates collaboration, it’s very easy for individuals to bounce ideas (sometimes sensitive or unauthorized information) off each other and exchange files.  That’s why the regulators are interested.

Myth #2:  No one cares about social software eDiscovery

Anyone who’s lived in the US for any length of time will quickly and vigorously nod their head when asked, “Do you think the US is a litigious society?”  That’s like asking the Pope if he’s religious.  People do care about social software eDiscovery, and over the last few years, we’ve begun to see several cases emerge involving social. Lester v Allied and Crispin v Audigier come to mind as particularly relevant cases involving social media eDiscovery.

In fact, Duke University conducted a comprehensive study and found that the number of eDiscovery cases jumped from 7 in 2003 to 111 in 2009.  The study cited that the #1 reason for courts issuing sanctions was a failure to produce electronic evidence (social software included). And, like litigation in general, there seems to be no end in sight.

Myth #3:  Corporate governance has nothing to do with social software 

Au contraire.  Social software has everything to do with corporate governance, especially in an era where news travels lightning fast via social channels.  You needn’t look further than the Arab Spring to see the speed and power of social in action.

Good corporate governance entails having the appropriate policies and procedures in place for records retention, information governance, and conflict management.  It’s wide-ranging with the objective of instilling a sense of accountability throughout the company.  And this includes social software communications. People use social software to brainstorm, debate, and even vent.  Say or write the wrong thing, and all of a sudden, it becomes a corporate governance issue.

Myth #4:  Plain ol’ capture is sufficient

Well, not exactly. Following on from the discussion above, responding in a timely fashion to discovery requests sounds easy but comes with some challenges.  When you think about the volume of data floating around out there (emails, social software content, Facebook posts, Skype IMs, etc.), you’ll get a headache right quick. Those headaches are compounded by the manner in which this content is logged and archived.

Many of today’s archiving systems just capture the content without regard to context (“plain ol’ capture”).  “Plain ol’ capture” treats each activity as a separate interaction.  For instance, a blog post would be considered an interaction, a comment to that blog post another interaction, an edit of the blog post another interaction, removal of a comment or blog post yet another interaction, and so on down the line.

Traditional archiving systems just capture all these different interactions and toss them into a vast repository without tying them together.  We all know that people like to respond to blogs or other posts on social media.  When you’ve got a couple dozen people chiming in with their thoughts, feedback, even deleted comments, it’s easy to see the importance of capturing the context showing how interactions are related.

Here’s one simple example: say Teddy posts to his internal Jive community that “I guarantee it.”  Sandy replies, “What do you guarantee?”  Teddy answers, “The Giants will beat the Dodgers tonight.”  Without contextual capture, an auditor may erroneously believe that a regulatory violation just occurred, but when taken in the context of the whole conversation, it was merely a benign prediction about a baseball game, not an investment recommendation.  The point is that there are just too many regulatory, legal, and corporate governance issues at stake to risk a substantial sanction or fine.

Off my soapbox now…

So there you have it - this author’s version of Mythbusters.  Like with most things social, it’s all quite fluid and dynamic.  What I just wrote today may be old hat tomorrow.  But, given that old-school concepts such as law and compliance still hold valid today, I gotta believe that the myths debunked above has some legs.

What kinds of myths are you seeing in your enterprise?

Published at DZone with permission of Jive Community, author and DZone MVB.

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