Enterprise Social Networks: Build Communities in Your Business

"Connecting people to people and people to information and supporting users to surface information in real time is the ultimate goal of enterprise social software.” - Vanessa Thompson

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According to IDC, revenue from worldwide enterprise social networks is predicted to grow from $1.24 billion in 2013 to $3.5 billion in 2018. There’s no doubt about the increasing demand for social tools adoption in the workplace. Businesses are starting to recognize the value in business social networking, as shown by a recent case study by Dr. Chris Archer-Brown at University of Bath: “There is a theme that engagement in the network acts as an indicator of the strength of the relationship between the staff and the organisation, which leads to benefits for the employee that can be observed by greater satisfaction, increased loyalty and longer tenure.”

Social business can drive collaboration, knowledge sharing, and partnerships while keeping remote and mobile employees better connected. Adoption, however, isn’t 100 percent about the technology employed. Through 2015, Gartner estimates that 80 percent of social business efforts will not be as effective because leadership will place too much emphasis on technology. Social tools platforms need a strong foundation in order to work — executives from the top down need to own social transformation and shifts in the cultural ecosystem for tools and processes to be successfully employed. Without contributor support and clear objectives, business social strategies will run the risk of outright failure.

The Driving Force of Consumerization

Well-known social sites allow users to access and post information quickly. Enterprise social tools need the same access. “Just as consumer social sites serve as central hubs to fulfill a range of needs and activities, enterprise social software has to be able to be a central platform from which to do work and communicate with stakeholders throughout an organization,” notes Bryant Harland from No Jitter. Through open APIs, businesses can deeply integrate social tools into established business platforms. This will allow the same seamless functionality employees are already getting in their personal lives, encouraging user engagement and breaking down information silos.

Collaboration Communities in the Enterprise

Intel IT recently implemented a single collaboration platform with social interactivity as a means to better connect sales and marketing teams. Based on extensive user research, the team designed a sales model for high-value collaboration ranging from specific tasks to general interaction. The model revolved around three types of collaboration communities: account and opportunity, work, and interest-based.

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Before this platform, information was received primarily through email and filtered through different levels of management to sales staff. The use of collaboration communities eliminates the middleman. When information is posted, members of that community can respond immediately, and all comments and decisions are available in real time. Collaboration communities allow for highly effective communication techniques, ranging from crowdsourcing to networking to scaled sharing.

The experience was a huge success; the platform tapped into the collective knowledge of the sales teams, giving team members visibility and improved productivity. It’s a first step toward providing a collaborative platform across the entire enterprise.

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