Just as public social networks have changed the way that people connect and interact, enterprise social networks can have a big impact on employee productivity and collaboration. Initially thought to be a distraction, these networks are now popping up at companies of all sizes worldwide which are realizing the huge potential of social collaboration to pump information and to attract as well as retain existing talent. However many business leaders are still hesitant for a number of reasons when it comes to adopting enterprise social collaboration. In fact, the biggest risk lies in deferring enterprise social adoption—you risk losing an edge over your competition.
To stay ahead, businesses need to come to terms with the following 10 common myths.
1. It is just a Social networking site
The first thought that goes through senior management’s minds when they hear “Social Networking” is I don’t want my employees’ friending people all day or people will behave badly since that’s the image the word “social” has created in our minds. Enterprise social networks are simply the next phase in enterprise collaboration and communications and are expected to be used in the same fashion. Users may find them to be vital tools for staying in touch with colleagues, collaborating, and maintaining company knowledge. But they won’t use it in the same way that they use a Facebook or Twitter when it is focused on business activities and solving business problems thus the focus moves away from just building networks and sharing what we did last weekend or had for lunch.
2. “Social” is only for the youth, not for older workers
It generally sounds something like, “The Gen Y has grown up using these tools, but the older workers won’t understand it and will stick to the legacy systems and emails.” Even though the largest social media user base comprises of age groups between 15 and 35, social media is well setup to feature both young and old. In fact, some of the busiest users who take most advantage of Facebook features are over 55 and the impact will be more with the usage since they will have the advantage of sharing their past and vast experience.
3. Enterprise social collaboration is a waste of valuable time.
An enterprise situation we commonly see is that there are lots of meetings and then meetings about the meetings, most people would agree that the vast majority of time we spend in meetings is wasted.When a meeting is called generally not all are invited since good meetings have a clear agenda and only those are invited who can contribute (you would agree with me that everyone can contribute). Part of the problem is also that the leader of the meeting does not have a strong agenda or sometimes we are not needed. Another part of the issue is that meetings occur when it is convenient for the organizer not for the participant. A well-structured social conversation provides a great forum to gather thoughts and ideas around a specific topic when it is convenient for the participant. With social tools we can get the benefit of group thinking without disrupting everyone’s work day. Social is more likely to save time than waste it if used properly.
4: Enterprise Social Collaboration are not as “secure” as e-mails and legacy applications
It generally sounds like “Company information may be compromised, confidential files could easily be lost or stolen and compliance with regulations will be impossible.” All of these concerns are valid, but no more so than for any other enterprise application, whether its email, document management, or CRM. The ultimate security of a product depends upon what it offers and how companies implemented it, rather than the product category itself. A look at the current enterprise social networking offerings shows a good base set of security options that one would find in any enterprise product compared to any e-mail service or legacy applications. These include single sign-on, integration with company directories and VPNs, and the option to run the product inside company firewalls and not just in a SaaS mode. Control over communications, file sharing that can not only help track how information is created and used, but also make sure that only those with appropriate permissions can access information.
5. Social Conversations aren’t Legal Records.
We learned from our past experiences that written conversations play a vital role in business decisions and fit the definition of a legal record.Enterprise social collaboration are best to maintain information both formal and informal with its linear activity streams, giving more visibility to activities and are easily searchable at any anytime anywhere.
6. Social collaboration and document management aren’t connected
Whether it’s a presentation, proposal, or spread sheet we just love to send documents with long explanations of the pretty chart driven dash boards we create. Documents are surely a big part of how we communicate the reason being it is one of the easiest ways to communicate a complex idea. The Enterprise Social collaboration platform enables you to easily find, share, sync and co-author documents without having to think about how and where to find them. Here’s an interesting video on how social tools can make document management very simple.These tools are amongst the early ones to be truly adopted in most enterprises since they are a natural fit.
7. It will only suit my IT team since they are more “Savvy”
Let’s say if you have a business question and no one in your team knows the answer who would you turn to? Can Google help? Would you post the question on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn? My bet is your answer is Twitter. The reason is simple everyone is in the conversation on Twitter since LinkedIn and Facebook are restricted to your network or discussion groups, while Twitter has no boundaries. Imagine bringing the same power into your enterprise which will include all your employees and teams across the organization.
8. Roll-out the tool and the rest will follow
Deploying the tool is just a part of the solution however simply relying on the tool to give magic results should not be expected. In order for an organization to succeed with social collaboration tools business unit leaders and IT professionals both need to be involved in making enterprise collaboration work. There needs to be a supporting corporate culture, a strategy, an implementation plan and a clear understanding of the business value. Leaders (even if it’s just one or two!) should demonstrate the value of micro-blogging within their teams by applying it to their favourite initiatives and be visibly involved on the network. Employees will be pleased to see that their managers are part of the process and even more pleased when someone on the leadership team responds or comments on their feeds. There may be a large group of people or perhaps one internal champion within the organization. The champions are the ones who really support and drive this initiative. Champions help express the value to rest of the organization, encourage adoption, help with training other employees, and act as SPOC for anything involving the initiative.
9. User-generated content may produce bad or incorrect information
It is no secret that “Content is king”, in fact some of the most frequently visited sites on the Internet are primarily user generated. Google exploits user-generated content to offer Web search so why not leverage the same within your enterprise. Having constant knowledge of what people and groups are doing and working on, what the key issues of the day within a company are, and who the most knowledgeable colleagues are on certain topics can pay excellent dividends.
10. Social collaboration activity isn’t going to affect my bottom line
The benefits in the culture of sharing and collaborating are there right in front of us from the social networking environments outside our organization, it is no rocket science to make the connection between how your business communicates with its employees, partners and customers and improving sales figures or, how improving communication and collaboration between employees (at all levels) will improve productivity. Harvard Business Review states that “If implementing enterprise social software can increase employee engagement by as little as 0.1%, based on Best Buy’s correlation between engagement and operating income that would result in an ROI of greater than 800%”
Enterprise Social Collaboration will enter the workplace no matter what company or market you are working in and will be in every enterprise in the upcoming 5 years. Does your company have one yet? If not, the next logical step would be to try it before deciding to roll it out.
Most analysts agree that these tools will be widespread in just a few short years, and companies will join in or start losing their market share.
Vipin Thomas, Product Manager, MangoApps (Twitter: @vipint7)
[Click here to sign up for free for MangoApps until Dec 2012.]