Collaboration and social business are at the center of the digital enterprise. But building a platform designed for interaction and success can be challenging.
As organizations look to achieve the level of agility, flexibility and innovation required for today's business and IT environments, they are increasingly tapping social business and collaboration tools. However, achieving results is no simple task.
An enterprise must step beyond vendor tools and technologies, and remap and rewire connections points, pathways and workflows. Here are five key things to consider on the path to social business success.
Social business encompasses the entire enterprise. Social business tools must transcend basic interaction capabilities—such as messaging, meeting spaces and video conferencing—and incorporate a wide array of activities and actions. In order to build a digital enterprise, CIOs and business leaders must stitch together intranet content and project portals, databases and knowledge bases, email and calendaring functions, and tightly integrated communication and collaboration features.
In the end, an initiative must transcend departments and functions. "Social business is more than a marketing or sales tool," says Sean O'Driscoll, a principal and partner at consulting firm PwC. "It is incredibly important to every business function."
The intersection of external systems and internal systems is critical. As organizations plug into social business functions, it's easy to overlook a basic fact: Internal and external systems should not operate as entirely separate and disconnected entities. In a best practice scenario, an enterprise ties together various tools and initiatives—social listening, analytics, marketing tools, customer support functions and data from outside sites such as Twitter and Facebook—so that data and information flow in and out of an organization in a continual way.
As O'Driscoll puts it: "In the past, engagement was viewed as episodic and transactional. In today's always-on environment, integrated social and digital technologies help organizations develop persistent and personalized relationships."
Incentives drive results. The "build it and they will come" approach to social media is a ticket to failure, says Alex Kass, senior research and development manager at Accenture Technology Labs, who says that "Too often, organizations deploy tools and expect employees and customers to instantly use them."
Although some employees, customers and others willingly share data, information and knowledge out of sheer benevolence, there's typically a need to encourage sharing—and reward participation and other desirable behaviors through recognition, prizes and awards. What's more, for customers that provide technical assistance on discussion boards and forums, some organizations now offer discounts or other perks.
A platform that delivers a high level of usability and accessibility is critical. "People are not looking for new tools and new things to do. They're looking for a way to get things done faster and better," Kass points out. As a result, it's essential to build systems and workflows into social business systems that make things easier for everyone—rather than simply benefiting the enterprise.On the front lines of business, it's about introducing tools that cut across platforms, operating systems and reach into the mobile arena.
In addition, it's important to tailor tools and features using Active Director or geolocation data so that content and interactions are contextual and relevant based on roles, responsibilities and a person's current environment.
Cultural issues can make or break an initiative. It's no secret that Boomers approach technology very differently from Millennials. Older workers may prefer the telephone and dislike online meeting places, while younger workers may use collaboration tools and social business capabilities even when a different approach works better.
Chuck Underwood, author of The Generational Imperative and founder and president of a consulting firm of the same name, says that it's vital to work with different groups and constituencies so that everyone can function and interact effectively in the social arena. "You have to accommodate different interests and preferences," he advises, "but at the same time, create an overall framework—and provide the cultural and practical training required for good interaction."