Benchmarking social business and collaboration tools

A complete social business strategy requires more than publishing social media guidelines for employees. CIOs need to rethink the enterprise as a social ecosystem

Putting in place a complete social business strategy requires more than publishing social media guidelines for employees. CIOs need to rethink the enterprise as a social ecosystem.

Although document and social collaboration tools are widely deployed for desktop environments – though not necessarily widely adopted – the ability to collaborate on mobile devices is absent for the majority of organisations. As mobile devices and smartphones become an important vehicle for communications, companies must extend collaboration services to the mobile app world.

The proliferation of incompatible collaboration tools across enterprises creates a major barrier to adoption and effective collaboration.

With just 6% of enterprise respondents reporting they have no plans for standardisation, it’s clear this is already on the radar of IT managers. But with so many workers accessing collaboration networks remotely, there is still a major gap between the in-office employee’s experience and that of the remote worker.

Some 47% of enterprises do not currently provide equal quality of collaboration to both groups.

On top of this, 25% of enterprise companies have no plans to give their employees access to external social tools. Yet the likelihood of employees accessing external social tools on a personal smartphone is increasing. The resulting barrier prevents employees from connecting external networks to internal networks. But organisations can strengthen their ecosystem by building connections between internal and external social networks.

Collaboration tools in most enterprises primarily facilitate interactions among employees internally. To improve the flow of information between employees and customers, organisations must extend the perimeter of their collaboration boundary to encompass customers. Microsoft’s Skype for Business video connection and systems from Google or Vidyo support direct customer video­conferencing. And implementing a cloud collaboration platform from a supplier such as Box, Egnyte or Dropbox brings document collaboration out of the murky waters of email attachments into the full light of the cloud.

Almost all (82%) of the enterprises (firms with 1,000 or more employees) surveyed have put social technology usage policies in place for their employees or are planning to do so (12%). But just having a basic policy document is not enough. Like Coca-Cola, Ford Motor and IBM, all firms need a comprehensive guidelines covering both internal and external use of social media by all employees.

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A collaboration ecosystem

Social business strategy combines internal, employee-oriented social strategies with external, customer-facing strategies to form an enterprise ecosystem. The eventual success of the ecosystem to sustain business transformation requires the entire organisation to develop a high degree of maturity in the application of social technologies to achieve business goals. For the IT department to be effective in supporting a successful social business strategy, CIOs must evolve their team’s social and digital technology skills at the appropriate level for the ecosystem maturity of the enterprise.

CIOs in emergent organisations should experiment: Characterised by executives who consider social technology to be a passing fad, pre-emergent organisations lack the leadership and business interest to experiment with social technologies. CIOs in emergent organisations can start by experimenting with social technologies that increase their own team’s productivity or efficiency, while seeking opportunities for business-driven pilots across the organisation. For example, introducing Yammer as a means for employees to request tech support will allow the IT management team to experiment with social technology while also spreading social experience into the enterprise.

Over time, opportunities to engage employees with customers will emerge, most likely through customer service and customer relationship management

Those CIOs with mature customer ecosystems need to partner with human resources: Many early pilots with social technologies focus on driving increased customer engagement and brand awareness. For example, Starbucks engages its customers through an “ideation” platform, inviting input from customers on how to improve the Starbucks brand. Organisations with strong customer social ecosystems are typically characterised by a lack of IT management involvement in marketing-led social initiatives. CIOs in these organisations should support marketing while partnering with human resources to develop employee-focused collaboration. Over time, opportunities to engage employees with customers will emerge, most likely through customer service and customer relationship management.

CIOs with mature employee ecosystems should help pilot customer-facing initiatives: Early pilots of social technologies in organisations, such as UBM’s enterprise wiki, focus on improving employee communications.

Some organisations, such as Intuit, use social network platforms to support their innovation process. Organisations with employee ecosystem maturity are characterised by a lack of customer-facing social initiatives. CIOs in these organisations must work with marketing and sales to explore how the employee ecosystem might also support customer-focused goals such as improved customer service or increased brand awareness. For example, empowering staff to use blogs or Twitter to engage with customers can help develop external maturity.

In organisations with established enterprise ecosystems CIOs need to focus on optimising the customer experience: Organisations that successfully integrate customer and employee social networks develop enterprise social ecosystem maturity. In these companies, customer-facing strategies empower employees to collaborate and to solve customers’ challenges.

At Sun Life Assurance, for example, technology management and marketing collaborate closely to direct employee social collaboration around innovation. The IT and marketing departments also support customer-focused social strategies that have transformed the ways in which the company engages with customers. Sun Life Assurance now invites customers to evaluate financial advisors through an app that is similar to a date-matching tool.

Measuring success

The real business impact of social business and collaboration is, without doubt, the hardest metric to measure. Indeed, one social media professional advises never to try to sell social media tools based on return on investment, adding that the same goes for email and phone. For this reason, many companies go no further than measuring adoption.

There is growing evidence, however, that there is a road to measuring social business and collaboration success. The journey is marked by a series of small wins that, taken together, represent discrete business value. The research points to sales, customer service and the supply chain as initial destinations where social business and collaboration add measurable business value. Once organisations reach these initial destinations, they seek out broad adoption to build on this early success. Still, 40% of respondents who are responsible for social business collaboration initiatives are at least attempting to make the connection of the results of social business initiatives to a tangible business benefit.

This article is an extract of the Forrester report: “Benchmark The Use Of Your Social Business And Collaboration Systems” (February, 2015). Nigel Fenwick is a principal analyst at Forrester.

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