In today’s competitive global economy, organizations have been forced to seek out innovative approaches to knowledge and information exchange amongst staff and their supply chains. Continued technical enhancements and internet technologies, together with a raft of collaborative software has given rise to an increasing trend in social networking for exchanging information and sharing knowledge.
There are many definitions of social networks, one of the best is given by Boyd and Ellison in their paper “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship” (Boyd & Ellison, 2007)
“Web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.” (Boyd & Ellison, 2007)
The definition does not itemise possible services provided by web sites or groups of websites. It defines the subset of functionality necessary to identify a service as a Social Network. This subset is what enables and reinforces social interaction, allows creation and updates of different relational ties. Specialised Social Networks provide services and content tailored to a particular type of interaction, content type, service type, or niche.
The KNOWNET project is interested in the application of Social Networking Technologies in the enterprise, especially within the supply chain. A Supplier Social Network is a specialised Social Network that provides services for the Supply Chain in an enterprise environment. There can be different goals such as to improve communication, knowledge management, project management, sales, marketing, team building, but in all cases it is a tool to reinforce and augment already existing social structures and business processes. The main difference of the applications of social networking technologies in a supplier network to those in an enterprise is that of organisational scale, as such there are more nuanced risks and challenges, as discussed in the relevant section of this paper.
Organisational adoption of Social Networking technologies is driven by issues like employee expectations about using new communication channels, improving and enhancing organisational sustainability, internal development through knowledge sharing. With the development of new tools and wider availability of data within modern enterprises, it is now possible to enhance the learning with more day do day aspects like project management, process support, etc… They are usually intended to supplement and enhance, rather than substitute existing tools and collaboration practices.