By the DynaSis Team
Last year, we published an article that introduced the concept of Social Business and hinted at what it can do for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). We also promised to share more information to help you explore the value of this approach.
Social business, as we mentioned before, is an operating model where companies embrace social media at the enterprise level, not only for outward-facing marketing and communications but also for internal collaboration and information sharing among employees―and possibly partners and vendors, as well. Despite the availability of an array of enterprise-grade social tools such as Yammer and Socialcast, the approach is not taking off like gangbusters―yet. Per Forrester Research, only 8% of employees use social collaboration tools more than once a week.
Despite that discouraging statistic, many studies indicate that these tools and platforms can provide companies and their employees with substantial benefits. For example, a 2012 survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Co., found that social collaboration software can reduce the time employees spend processing email by 20-25%.
The challenge, of course, is adoption―by both SMBs and their personnel. Companies want secure, controlled-environment social collaboration tools; users prefer to “socialize” via Facebook or Twitter and don’t want to learn a new platform. Early adopters struggle to obtain user buy-in, and many become frustrated when it doesn’t happen.
Patience Pays Off
So, how can you deploy enterprise-level social tools without becoming a statistic? To borrow a phrase from the 1970s show Kung Fu, “Patience, young grasshopper.” Increasingly, major technology players from Salesforce to VMware are embedding social features into their platforms. Salesforce has reported success with its social networking and collaboration tool, Chatter, and Microsoft has integrated Yammer with Office 365 and SharePoint as a by-the-seat, SaaS (software as a service) offering.
In other words, you won’t have to force users to adopt a totally new platform, and you also don’t have to give in and abandon your craving for control and security. (Control and security should not be negotiable, no matter which solution you choose.)
The trick is to find an offering that integrates with enterprise-grade systems you already use (or are planning to deploy), rather than to expect workers to learn a new platform (and keep another window open on their desktops.) The more tightly social tools integrate with other technology systems, the easier it will be to encourage users to adopt them―and the more benefit you will see.
This is true, not only because social collaboration and information sharing is more approachable when employees access functions from a familiar interface, but also because interconnected platforms work together to convey more and better information. With an integrated solution, for example, your sales people might be able to receive alerts when a pending contract is executed. Then, your warehouse manager might receive an automated tweet because the contract was for more items than your current inventory levels could support.
This may sound like a futuristic scenario, but it’s already happening in larger enterprises. The potential for social collaboration and information sharing to foster amazing achievements is increasing, every day. Social platforms and tools are even helping some companies create “corporate brains” for vital knowledge sharing between departing Baby Boomers and their younger successors.
At the SMB level, we expect many larger developers to debut solutions that target (and are affordable for) smaller enterprises. Some already have. After all, that’s the real beauty of SaaS. Developers can serve an identical interface and feature set to a 50-person company or a global conglomerate at an affordable, per-seat cost.
To see if these solutions make sense for your firm, give us a call. Our virtual CIOs can perform an analysis and help you devise a strategy that will carry your business into a very bright future.