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Social networking may bring about the greatest change to workforce culture since the introduction of e-mail, improving both the speed and quality of communication within an organization. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Public Sector Practice helps our clients evaluate the performance and value of social networks as an element of their IT infrastructure. We recommend that government agencies consider the following steps before implementing a social networking program:

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1. Thoroughly analyze organizational processes. Look carefully at how people inside your organization communicate. Is most communication done person to person or through e-mail? How is information shared within groups? Managers need a baseline understanding of how people already work to ascertain how a social networking system will impact their day-to-day communication.

2. Reward collaboration. Most incentive plans reward individual contributions, an approach that can create a competitive work environment. In order for a social networking solution to thrive, a government agency needs to rework incentive plans to support collaboration within and across departments, decrease competition between organizations and agencies, and promote the sharing of information. This is critical for building trust with new users and getting them to embrace a social network.

3. Outputs are obvious; outcomes are obscure. Metrics that emphasize numbers, such as total log-ons and the amount of time spent with a tool, are easily gathered and seemingly encourage quick conclusions. But that’s not the whole story. What’s difficult—but more important—to measure is the value the social network brings to the agency. For example, what types of new collaboration has the tool enabled? These outcomes will take time to assess, and that time must be factored into the cost and scope of implementing the program.

Nicole Gibson is a manager in the Public Sector Practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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