First a short introduction to define what I mean by ‘Enterprise Social Collaboration’:
– Collaboration: the act of several people working jointly on documents, excel files and other content that is stored centrally (in SharePoint of course) to deliver a collective result (think of: bids, tenders, presentations, project deliverables, etc.)
– Social: the use of a Social Communication mechanism to communicate with an open audience about the content that is created jointly (using Yammer or SharePoint Newsfeeds of course)
– Enterprise: the fact that above effort is delivered in the context of an organization in which business goals have to be achieved.
‘Social’ makes the difference
|The big difference with current ways to collaborate is in the ‘Social’.
I am sure you are already into ‘Enterprise Collaboration’ using SharePoint: all documents and other content are stored centrally in SharePoint, where all authorized users can review it and work on it. You have versioning turned on, and everybody always works on the last version.
BUT: all communication, all conversations is still hidden in local, private email inboxes, where they cannot be shared. That is where ‘Social’ steps in: it centralizes conversations about collaboration content and makes it shareable.
Reason No 1: You create engaged employees
What if you could use the same energy that employees put in Facebook, Twitter and alike to achieve your business goals? Many people like to ‘promote themselves’: show the world (or at least their friends and followers) what they are doing and what they are interested in and good at. They share ideas spontaneously and help the people they are in touch with whenever they can.
|Context creates Relevance.
Relevance leads to Engagement.
|You can obtain similar behaviour within your organization. The only thing you have to do (besides making the technology available – see last chapter) is to make clear in which context(s) your employees can contribute the most. Show them what is important in which context. Identify groups, communities and other teams and set goals and expectations. Show people the relevance of what you are doing and they will decide themselves where and when they can contribute the most.|
Reason No 2: You get faster and better results
Research has shown that we tend to communicate with people with whom we communicate most often. When we have a question we typically email the question to a limited number of people with which we are used to communicate (1) and of which we believe they have the answer (2). The latter is not necessarily true: there are probably more knowledgeable people in a wider circle than your direct contacts.
|Social communication is an open way to communicate with a larger audience.||When we post a message, we don’t really know with how many people we communicate. (We don’t keep a mental list of all our Facebook friends all the time). This results in unexpected responses from people of which you had forgotten that they were in your friend list.|
By creating groups and communities in your organization you obtain the same effect: your employees start to communicate with audiences that they don’t necessarily know. That audience is also larger than the people you would send an email to.The advantage is 1) in most cases you get faster answers, and 2) in most cases you get better answers.
This is all the more relevant in organizations with multiple subsidiaries because people working in the different subsidiaries hardly ever communicate with each other.
Reason No 3: You get more innovative results
On top of getting faster and better replies in an open communication group, you also get more innovative results. Research has shown that communication in ‘closed’, restricted groups leads to even-mindedness: i.e. we start to adopt the ideas and way of thinking of people we most often communicate with.
By asking questions in a more open community (that might even contain people that you don’t necessarily know) you get more unexpected answers.
Suppose your are an HR employee working in Belgium. If you need an advise from a colleague, you would probably ask the question to your direct colleagues in Belgium. But if you would ask for advice to a larger group of HR colleagues including also e.g. people from the Dutch or French subsidiary, you would almost certainly get a different answer. And although ‘different’ doesn’t always mean ‘better’ it will still open your eyes to other ways of thinking.
Reason No 4: You create a collective memory
Reason No. 4 is a really innovative one because it implies a shift in sharing conversations.
|E-mail conversations remain invisible to the ‘outsiders’ who never participated in the conversation.||Internal e-mail exchanges are more and more conversations about a business issue. But e-mail exchanges are visible only to the closed group of people that appeared in the To: or CC: list at some point during the conversation. During the e-mail conversation and after it is finished, the e-mails are stored in private, ‘local’ inboxes (or other personal mail folders). They remain invisible to the ‘outsiders’ who never participated in the conversation.|
‘Social communication’ changes all that: conversations become centralized and shared, they become visible to people who don’t participate in the conversation, and they remain accessible to anyone, even long after the conversation is finished. In combination with a good search engine, conversations from the past become sources of knowledge.
This effect becomes even stronger when you embed the social conversations into your current Line-of-Business (LOB) Applications. Imagine an CRM-system in which you can read the internal conversations about a customer, an opportunity, an offer, … next to the actual data of that customer, opportunity or offer. Imagine a project or committee collaboration site in which the conversations about the project or the work of the committee is integrated into the site. This would make people’s work much easier.
Reason No 5: You get a higher ROI on your software investment
All of the above leads to IT solutions that are used more intensely and in which people participate more actively. Research of Doculabs shows that the return on investment of such IT solutions is much higher.
The study identifies 3 types of collaboration and analyses the return you would get from implementing each scenario.
Their conclusion is:
“All three scenarios offer positive returns, but the strongest is when social capabilities are integrated into existing processes…”
You can read all the details here.
No need to hesitate: the technology is there
The best part of all this is: the technology to make this happen is available.
By using Microsoft’s SharePoint and Yammer you have all the functions that you need for a comprehensive Enterprise Social Collaboration platform:
- Profile pages (MySite) for every employee to set up his or her profile
- A ‘Follow’ button to follow people, documents, sites and tags
- Newsfeed and Discussion mechanisms to initiate a conversation, participate in it, like it etc.
- Possibility to integrate documents, pictures and other content into your conversation
- Possibility to integrate your conversations in other (existing) LOB applications
- And last but not least: a powerful Search-engine to find back all that information when you need it.
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