“I just want to know who does what, how I can reach them and that they can help me get my job done.” Such are the sentaments of the majority of the people I ran through intranet usability testing and focus groups recently.

“I want to network in my organization,” said one participant.

Everyone wants to know who does what, what they know, what they’ll share and how they can enlist the help of all those “experts.”

“I know there are people who know a lot about my topic of interest. I just don’t know how to find them quickly.”

But, they don’t just want phone numbers. Well, they want that too. They want to search on a topic and find the top expert, see if the expert is available then click a button to ring that person right from the computer. Or, send the expert a text with questions.

One person talked about being able to listen in on internal conversations to find out what the next big thing will be. “I want to know what everyone is talking about.” Ok, so he focuses on innovation as part of his job.

So, some want to be a fly on the wall near the water cooler, while others want to rally the help and expertise of strangers. Still others want to share ideas – be part of a solution that is bigger than themselves.

Meanwhile, our organizations struggle with how to rescue intellectual capital from the minds of employees and get people engaged enough to go above and beyond.

Is anyone seeing this picture yet? Has anyone connected the dots? What this not so tall tale illustrates is how social technology can actually benefit the business. Specifically social netwworking and microblogging.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter which technology we’re talking about. The conversation should begin with the need, the desire, the passion to solve a problem. In this example, the problem is preserving intellectual capital and connecting people.

If we all approached the use of technology in internal communication in this way, we would not only be able to sell leadership, but we’d deliver more strategic and valuable solutions. That benefits our profession. So, ask “what do you do in a normal day” or “what’s frustrating you in your job,” then infer the right solution and value. Don’t ask “how would you use a blog.”

Recently I had occassion to provide a client a guide to help the team shift their thinking – look at technology solutions through a strategic business need lens. I’ll share some of that guide in a future post.