CIOZone.com today reported that Gartner is predicting a rise in enterprise social software. This includes blogs, wikis, and other social networking platforms. While the news is not surprising, it follows that as more electronic communications are used, Virtual Distance will rise. The reason: as electronic medium use goes up so too does communication distance, one of four vectors in Operational Distance. Therefore, the news should spur companies to also increase Virtual Distance Management - especially since Operational Distance can often lead to Affinity Distance which can overshadow and often replace other, less harmful factors. The takeaway - as social software platforms proliferate, so too should more emphasis be placed on ensuring people stay 'connected' at the relationship level. Some suggestions:
1. Ensure that there is a social software management team that meets regularly with a representative group of users to get the 'real' story on what's happening behind the scenes.
2. Use the Virtual Distance Management tools to monitor and manage Virtual Distance on a regular basis - monthly is probably best to ensure that issues are caught early. It's important to remember that as members enter and exit out of social networks, Virtual Distance Profiles of the group and organization as a whole will change. Therefore it is critical to train as many managers as possible to ensure wide coverage.
3. One common assumption is that social software enterprise solutions will "create" effective collaboration. This is a myth. Remember, much of the research (one article about his can be found here) on social software points to the fact that most users already know each other from other activities or personal connections. The software itself does not guarantee results.
4. People savvy managers are more important than ever before. Not only do they have to be good at managing people in traditional settings, they have to have the right levels of emotional intelligence to pick up on problems that may emerge online. Make sure to hire people with diverse track records with both traditional and online employees. Train people on management, negotiation and conflict management skills to suit all work environments, online and off.