A social strategy: the new way to do business
Email is dying, according to IBM executive Luis Suarez. The social evangelist believes this so strongly that four years ago, he told his bosses he would stop using email in favor of communicating with colleagues via social media.
As a pioneer of a new but fast-moving trend dubbed enterprise social, Suarez believes that internal email can be replaced by collaborative working; using social networks and tools to communicate and edit documents. Following Suarez’s experiment, many IBM employees have also dumped internal emails, preferring social media as a more efficient way to share their ideas.
Suarez's case is extreme; the trend will not see firms dropping email entirely, but social networks form the perfect foundation for employees to collaborate on documents. While collaboration is difficult through email, up and coming tools such as Box allow staff to share ideas and edit documents easily, having huge effects on productivity within the business.
Enterprise social is not only useful internally: companies can use social networks to communicate with clients. It complements the more direct approach of email by enhancing sales and customer service and providing information on new products and services.
It is therefore no surprise that the market for enterprise social is getting bigger. According to Ovum, the current value of enterprise social networking is more than $500m, with around 10 per cent of organizations in established IT markets deploying solutions or subscribing to services.
Vendors are seeing its potential, too; IBM, VMware, Citrix and Microsoft are selling enterprise social software, along with up-and-coming firms such as Jive Software and Salesforce’s Chatter.
Enterprise social will also appeal to employees; it is essentially an expansion of consumer behavior such as the use of Twitter, Facebook and Dropbox to share ideas.
strategic approach required
A social approach should always be accompanied by a best practice strategy for collaboration between employees, as well as for customer-facing communication.
As part of this strategy, companies should monitor and support employees' use of social. IT departments are not always aware of the collaboration tools used within the business. As such, it is often employees who discover enterprise social first, meaning IT can often lose control.
“As the business case for investment in enterprise social networking solutions has yet to be proven to skeptics, some vendors are encouraging independent user adoption in the hope it will prove business value,” says Richard Edwards, Ovum Analyst.
Those implementing an enterprise social strategy must be sure of their goal, according to Gartner. The firm says that enterprise social networks can help enhance communication, coordination and collaboration, once companies have overcome a number of strategic and operational challenges.
According to the analyst, social technologies are employed by 70 per cent of organizations, but the vast majority of initiatives fail due to a lack of purpose. This because they follow an approach of “provide and pray”, Gartner says, leading to only a 10 per cent success rate.
Anthony Bradley, Group Vice President at Gartner says this type of approach usually fails because the organization “did not provide a compelling cause around which a community could form and be motivated to provide their time and knowledge,” he says. “In other words, purpose was lacking.”
defining the purpose
Without a well-crafted and compelling purpose, social media initiatives will fail to deliver business value, Gartner says. IT must support new requirements for content, collaboration and analytics. It must also be prepared to handle multiple user interaction styles and needs.
Companies need to identify and define, at a high level, the target community for social collaboration. Having defined the audience, they should identify the nature of the collaboration and the desired business outcome.
Successful initiatives should naturally motivate users to take part and as a result, deliver robust user-generated content, Gartner says.
The analyst advises companies to choose ‘purposes’ where organizational value can be clearly measured and shared with the community as feedback and motivation to continue participating.
hand-in-hand with cloud
But once the aim is clear, enterprise social fits perfectly into a mobility strategy. Using multiple devices such as smartphones and tablets, enterprise social sits hand-in-hand with cloud, as the software can then be updated regularly with bug fixes.
And as users at many organizations are already discovering, with defined goals, enterprise social can improve customer service, sales and employee engagement.
Most firms aren’t ready to let go of email just yet. But with a clear strategy in place, social tools can be used to compliment email communication both internally and externally - saving time and substantially increasing employees' productivity.
Find out more about integrating social media with the rest our your communications channels in our unified communications solutions pages.