Reputation Systems For Enterprise 2.0

Gartner recently identified seven key characteristics of a good social application purpose. A clearly defined purpose and scope is necessary but not sufficient for the success and sustenance of communities within enterprises.  One of the other often overlooked areas in Enterprise 2.0 applications is Reputation Systems. As enterprises try to foster communities, it is crucial to choose and deploy the right reputation patterns to ensure adoption. 

A good starting point would be to check Yahoo's social interaction design & reputation patterns and see which of them or their variants would suit your enterprise and the specific application. 

Yahoo defines the problem well :

"A person participating in a social structure expects to develop a reputation and hopes for insight into the reputations of others, but each designed model of participation and reputation embodies its own set of biases and incentive structures. Balancing these forces determines in large measure the success or failure of a social system."

This is true of social apps within enterprises as well. So what are the key factors to consider while choosing the reputation patterns for social apps in enterprises?

Three of the most important things to keep in mind:

Understand the social app and it's purpose

Most social apps for the enterprise are likely to fall somewhere in the competitive spectrum that Yahoo defines. Every social app is different and would require different kinds of reputation patterns depending on how collaborative or competitive you want the communities to be . For instance, the reputation pattern you choose for your enterprise wiki to co-author policies and procedures may be different from the one you choose for your enterprise idea management or social Q&A platform. 

Cultural and Demographic fit

Some of the patterns are likely to backfire if we don't understand the cultural nuances of departments and the enterprise as a whole. It is important to design reputation systems that have a judicious mix of competitive and collaborative elements depending on the culture of the enterprise. Gen Y typically responds well to competitive reputation patterns like the LeaderBoard and Points. A large scale social Q&A platform that we deployed uses a variation of the LeaderBoard pattern – close to 41% of the users are in the age group 18-25.  Competition to get on the LeaderBoard for various categories is making things interesting. 

Larger Enterprise 2.0 Strategy

It also helps to look at reputation in the context of your larger Enterprise 2.0 strategy. For instance, reputation across multiple social apps [ social bookmarking system, wiki/Knol, social Q&A platform, idea management system etc.,] within the enterprise can be rolled up to serve as a proxy for the individual's expertise in a specific area. As social apps get integrated more and more with business processes, they are in the long run, likely to turn into interesting and trustworthy proxies for expertise. Reputation systems are likey to have a huge impact on how social networks will evolve within enterprises and so it becomes imperative to keep the big picture in mind even as you choose reputation patterns for stand-alone social apps.