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Enterprise social tools are garbage, says Red Hat CEO

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Updated. Fans of enterprise social networking have high hopes for these tools, touting their potential ability to break down silos, increase morale and cohesion, and pierce the executive bubble. But as hot a topic as the likes of Jive, Yammer and Asana are, not everyone is a fan of the concept. In fact, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst recently described them as garbage, reports Business Insider:

Everyone’s talking about the importance of engaging employees, and the Facebook generation and collaboration tools. All of that is garbage … collaboration is a culture. It’s not a set of tools.

Despite all the hype, “you can’t buy your way to collaboration. If employees are not already working that way, tools become nothing more than a high-tech version of the never-used suggestion box,” writes BI’s Julie Bort, explaining Whitehurst’s point of view.

The idea that offline culture might hinder enterprise social adoption has been raised here on WebWorkerDaily before, but when speaking to the executives of companies selling these products, it’s hard to get anyone to admit that a less than open corporate ethos might undermine these tools, nor that they may lack the power to transform a organization’s troublesome tendencies to horde information or sugar coat information for the higher ups. These executives have no trouble knocking the competition’s adoptability or user friendliness, but few seem willing to admit the problem might not be product design or flawed roll outs but human nature and corporate culture.

While enterprise social seems like a great lubricant for information exchange and collaboration at companies that already value these things, can these tools really work if a firm doesn’t already have a culture of sharing?

Update: Asana was described in the Business Insider story as an enterprise social network, but it is actually a productivity and task management tool.

Photo courtesy stock.xchng user sundstrom.

8 Responses to “Enterprise social tools are garbage, says Red Hat CEO”

  1. Adam Voysey

    Is this a redux of the ‘nature vs. nurture’ argument? Was Mr Whitehurst saying “all garbage” is an absolute, regardless of the platform?

    Question: I’m struggling with this right now: Christian Action Asia, the nonprofit for whom I am Dir of Development, helps orphans on the Tibetan Plateau. Stakeholders help with web research, proposal writing, volunteer recruitment and fundraising. But email alone just isn’t cutting it. I’m just rolling out enterprise social networking. If I ‘nurture’ the early adopters, is it most people’s experience that it can grow to become our corporate nature?

  2. Vipin Thomas

    Just seems like an 18th Century thought that social tools are garbage, the world has experienced how Facebook or LinkedIn has improved our lives. The same model being implemented in Enterprises makes sense as now there is a system which is not complicated & makes work fun. May be people are not open to it because of the transparency it brings in the Organization.

  3. Yaacov Cohen

    Although I am a Co-founder and CEO of a social company, I actually agree that company culture doesn’t start with tools but with peoples. Enterprises need to first define what type of company they want to be, do they want information to flow freely or according to hierarchy and functional division. Then Social platforms can help implement the enterprise strategy and they can boost its implementation. So they are not garbage!

  4. Some of these tools ‘suck’ because they ignore what people are already using today. Expecting people to drop what they are already doing to adopt a new paradigm….that’s what sucks. Allowing people to continue doing what they are already doing, like using email, but in such a way where they can extend it to get presence awareness, share documents, and find colleagues….that’s smart.

  5. Enterprise social tools junk? Hardly…it has do some much to open up our company that it allows us to get things done faster and spread news faster because we connect more freely…including the executive management.

    • Since you only read the title, I’ll help you understand the above: the tools don’t bring about change on their own, they require a culture to support them. Hence, deploying social tools in, say, Walmart, would be pointless b/c the company doesn’t have the culture necessary to make good use of the tools. Hence, the tools, by themselves, are junk. They are only useful if the company is willing to listen to their employees at all levels.

      • Oh…I did more than read the title…and I suspect that the epic fail of auto-correct on the iPhone might have made my wording bad. My point…in our company it has made a HUGE difference in a positive way, and it wasn’t something that we were used to. While it won’t work in many places, I think calling it “garbage” and immediately dismissing it is short-sighted. That’s all.