The Enterprise Profile: Merging Identity, Expertise, And Social Attributes

Author: Jim Lundy
Date: November 8, 2013
Topic: Collaboration
Research Note Number: 2013-45

Issue: What collaboration technologies and architectures should enterprises leverage?

Summary: Redundant and isolated information about people is hidden in applications and systems throughout the enterprise. An enterprise profile that unites HCM, social-sourced, inferred and certified information about associates is a critical element of a people-centric collaboration strategy.

In any enterprise, there is a lot of information about people from social networks, intranets, HCM and other business applications. All these sources contribute valuable information to an enterprise user profile (see Note 1). Inevitably, some of this information is redundant or disconnected, and needs to be merged into a unified profile. This research note covers the key elements of creating a complete enterprise profile.

Enterprise Social Networks And The Unified Enterprise Profile

Enterprise social networks (ESNs) have become a mainstream priority for most organizations. A core element of the social network is the social profile, containing all the information that can help individuals find and connect with each other. The social profile contains basic data like name, location and a photo along with information about interests, projects and experiences. In the social network, this profile gets extended through tags, comments and feedback from others within an individual’s network of connections. Most of this profile data is entered and managed by individual users.

Increasingly, ESNs can populate social profiles with data from other enterprise sources. An enterprise profile starts with a core of production data from the main systems of record about people in the enterprise. Building on data from HCM, LMSs and other identity systems within the business establishes a certified enterprise profile that is reliable, accurate and trusted.

With all the varied methods that can and have been used to develop profiles, having a certified profile as a foundation is a key differentiator. Other methods rely on information captured or otherwise entered by sources that do not have the credibility or authority that comes from systems of record. However, when data from certified systems is merged with data from social activity, which may include endorsements and recommendations from peers about skills and expertise, the result is a powerful and complete profile that gives a better picture of who people are, what they do and how well they do it.

Enterprise HCM systems have all the essential personal and demographic information for each employee. Populating the profile from that source is an essential first step. Rather than relying on duplicated entries and self-maintenance alone, information such as skills, competencies, previous roles and current position from the HCM system provides valid and certified profile data. In fact, HCM vendors have tremendous power, because they own the core of an enterprise user’s profile. It is our belief that not many HCM suite vendors fully understand the implications of that.

Other essential sources include learning management systems (LMSs) and the enterprise IT directory. By integrating information from these sources, the profile becomes a centralized source of certified and trusted information about people. Each element of the profile then complements and strengthens the other.

Social network profiles rely completely on self-reporting and ad hoc entry by others. Concerns arise with the exaggerations that may happen from this perspective. While searching and mining the broad range of information that flows through the social network can provide insights into skills, those results are best used as additions to the skill and experience information in a certified profile from production enterprise systems.

Note: This is part of Aragon’s archived research.
To view our latest coverage, please visit our Coverage Areas page.