Forbes.com has announced a new feature for its business news and information Web site called Corporate Org Chart Wiki, a tool that allows anyone to add their views of who reports to whom in the corporate world. The use of the term "Wiki" is a bit of a misnomer here, as the interface bears little resemblance to a traditional user-generated Wiki database, but in concept it's not too distant a relative. Anyone can create or edit an org chart using a drag-and-drop graphical interface to define reporting relationships and to add additional bio information in a sidebar area. Well, at least that's the concept. In trying the tool out on some execs at the Ford Motor Company the drag and drop function worked in a very herky-jerky sort of way and a tool that would supposedly let one roam across a chart larger than the display window didn't seem to operate at all. There's some good thought given to the design of this feature but "Beta" might be a generous description of its capabilities at this point.
More importantly there's no real interactivity with this information and other information on the site: it's a standalone feature that doesn't have any community content built around the org chart function. In concept everyone would love to have a "real-time org chart" built up from people's direct knowledge of an organization but in reality there has to be a sense of ownership for that content as much as in any other social media product. Without even a login ID or some sort of online "handle" to provide attribution on edits most business people would be loath to trust information of this kind for any serious kind of use.
There is tremendous potential for business information built in a social media environment, as evidenced by companies such as Jigsaw and LinkedIn, but it takes more than some tech tools and a label to create successful content services from social media. It takes first and foremost an environment in which a community of editors builds a reputation for reliable contributions. Forbes Corporate Org Chart Wiki is an interesting concept but I suspect that it will take someone who is more willing to take the concept beyond a half-hearted add-in to a media site and into the core of a more enterprise-oriented business information service to make this concept take off. In the meantime it's a tool worth doodling with for a few minutes to get some ideas as to how to take this concept to the next step.