Enterprise social media usually causes people to change the way they've been working. In many cases, that's a good thing, because organizations with silos, entrenched professional hierarchies, and far-flung operations stand to gain the power locked up in sequestered data and sequestered people. But to tune into the drumbeat of the social media buzz, one might think enterprise social media is the right fit for any organization. Like any other technology, enterprise social media won't necessarily be for everybody.
Common scenariosSriram Chakravarthy (pictured at right), Vice President of Product and Engineering (tibbr) at TIBCO, says he sees some common scenarios emerging for those organizations benefitting the most from social in the enterprise.
"Any company that has employees who are working remotely or in the field, regardless of their size, can see tremendous benefit from social collaboration software," he said. "As soon as you have people who are separated by walls or geographical distance, businesses begin to struggle with transparency, communication, and keeping everyone working towards the same objective. Organizations that are constantly generating and sharing content, as well as interacting with customers on a daily basis, are able to use social collaboration software as a team working space that keeps employees connected, allowing them to get real work done together."
Getting work done together means having something other than email to help focus the barrage of information where it is needed. Social media platforms tend to do that, while also helping to solve problems related to:
- Information being lost or misplaced;
- Not enough relevant information available for making decisions;
- Information already in the organization's possession that should have been considered in decisions, but it wasn't available when the decisions had to be made;
- Customer relationships that are suffering because team members aren't or can't share information timely and effectively; and
- People aren't able to easily and effectively share their insights, experience, and contacts.
"While we have a huge span of both professional and personal users that fall into many different categories and organizational sizes, social collaboration really is based on the people using it, and the goals they're looking to achieve together," he said.
As a cloud-based collaboration environment, Kona is quick and easy to start using. Gertler says an organization can often get by with little involvement on the part of IT; this makes it simple to use for small-to-medium size businesses, internal company teams, or even non-profit and educational organizations with limited IT resources. But, he says there can be strong cases when IT may want to spearhead adoptions. Some of those times include:
- Protecting network information, while enabling internal and external collaboration. External individuals don't have access to the company's private network, and network credentials aren't exposed to the public.
- Enabling peer support where peer-to-peer communities trigger knowledge sharing and issue resolution with team members, rather than involving IT directly.
- Reducing ticket escalation rates and email inbox overload problems.
IT can also find opportunities in using enterprise social media for its own purposes, such as resolving hyper-sensitive issues quicker, providing the "pulse" of projects to IT leaders, speeding up learning on pilot projects, and lowering overall administration burdens.
Key questions to ask
When an organization is considering social media collaboration, it also has the option of hosting it on premise. TIBCO's Chakravarthy outlines five key questions to ask that will help to determine social collaboration fit, and provide clues as to what type of platform might work out the best.
- Are there team members not regularly in the office?
- Is there anything beyond basic email allowing the team to share ideas and files, and to connect with the business applications they use?
- Is there something in place that allows employees to access their shared information and resources from mobile devices?
- Are there plans in place to expand the business and, if so, what kind of process is in place to share the existing knowledge?
- Is there a large number of customers who would like to have more contact with the organization, and who want to share more information in a private, secure manner?
Deltek's Gertler notes that there are always going to be a variety of reasons and goals for exploring new technologies and processes. For IT departments, it's about making the business run better. However, the real purpose is empowering people in project-based businesses and beyond to get things done — whether that involves removing unnecessary and time-consuming meetings to create better team processes or eliminating technology challenges for users so they can collaborate with their teams better and more efficiently.
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Duane Craig reports and writes on technology, construction, finance, food, and agriculture. He's been published in trade print magazines, the Washington Post, and widely on the web.