Social business is about embedding collaboration within people’s everyday work environments, delivering capabilities so far superior to existing ways of working that they become simply the way things are done.
Email or IM are excellent for communication, but they take place outside of organizational systems, causing information to reside in silos that depend not on established processes for tracking it, but on individuals. From the details behind why a project succeeded or failed to the reasons for choosing a particular supplier, this information holds the key to making better decisions, ensuring mistakes aren’t repeated and, in short, improving the overall health of a business. The fact that it is lost has become an accepted part of the way we work.
Email, which is arguably the original business collaboration tool, is so enmeshed in daily work life that people are becoming overwhelmed. McKinsey analysts report that knowledge workers typically spend 28% of each day (some 13 hours per week on average) reading, writing, and responding to emails. The problem has become so severe that some corporations have banned internal email in hopes of recovering some productivity.
While the benefits of social technology may initially have been considered important but not exactly measurable, companies are now looking at social business initiatives because of their potential to drive bottom-line benefits, such as:
- Increasing productivity: The words productivity and social media aren’t often put together in a positive way, but helping people work more efficiently is one of the major promises of social business technology. Reducing email loads, putting information where people can find it easily, and allowing employees to collaborate in context should indeed make them more productive—and improve overall performance in the process. The McKinsey study suggests that the 28% of time employees spend on email could be cut by about 8% through intelligent use of more advanced collaboration tools.
- Retaining vital corporate knowledge: Social business allows companies to take advantage of information that is currently lost through technologies like email and instant messaging.
- Attracting and retaining top talent: Expectations for technology have changed, and people have come to take for granted the technology they use in their personal lives, and they now expect business software to deliver the same fun, intuitive, easy-to-use experience.
- Improving decision making: Social business technologies make collaboration among employees easy, but they also deliver information that aids decision making in ways that tools like email or instant messaging simply cannot.
One of the most critical points to understand is that with social business technology, a collaborative platform is embedded within critical organizational systems, like enterprise resource planning (ERP) or supply chain management (SCM) systems. Access is not limited to individuals who typically interact with those systems, but is extended across the enterprise, making the platform a company’s primary vehicle for all employee interaction. Documents, photos, plans, and, most importantly, conversations are all captured, organized, searchable, and auditable. Employees can easily share and find information and also have information come to them through automated messages displayed directly on desktops or mobile devices and based on their specific roles or responsibilities.