George Siemens points to this Ross Dawson article on The state of social networking software for the enterprise. Dawson's intro is
Social networking software is at the center of technology hype... Yet social networking is not just about friends and personal networks. Applying social networks in the enterprise is a sweet spot that has massive potential value. At the heart of the issue is how you tap the true potential of an organization, by bringing its most relevant expertise and resources to where they can be of most value.
And then Siemens follows with two important issues with respect to software geared to discovering / enabling social networks. 1) Organizations tend to be unaware of their own strengths and expertise, suggesting they are unaware of the power of their own networks. And 2) Expertise and knowledge are not "database-able." The first claim almost follows from this one.
There is something very powerful in enabling people to connect with one another on topics about which they have true expertise and passion. While it is possible to create a database of interests and skills, the nuances of what people are doing that is exciting and that others in the company might want to tap into are very difficult to record in a data structure, as George Siemens suggests. But what does this mean?
At some level, a company needs to have that basic interest / skill information in some kind of findable directory. That part is relatively easy (or at least it is understandable). The interesting stuff happens when you let people loose with this information. Someone who needs Y is going to try contacting people with that in their profile. Then what? What has the company designed in terms of time an opportunity for people to follow-up on these requests. Are the connections made one-to-one? Or are they made through a social network (as these social networking packages tend to arrange)? Is there a mechanism to monitor the connections, so that if the first attempt fails a longer-but-more-active path could be attempted? Or does the company set up a more community-centric mechanism, where interested parties choose to participate? These kinds of questions have to follow any kind of discussion of setting up social networking tools or expertise locators.
A reminder: Social networking and social network software are NOT social network analysis. They may be related conceptually, but they are different animals. Social network software helps people make connections across/through social networks. Social network analysis uses surveys to discover the networks and then say something about the "health" of those networks.