May 12, 2014 |  Posted in: Apps, CMS, Digital Strategy, Intranet, Social Media, Thought Leadership

The growth & importance of enterprise social collaboration networks

As enterprise collaboration becomes increasingly sophisticated and real-time, social collaboration tools will gradually supersede email within forward-thinking organisations.

Since superseding the humble memo, email has become the default form of enterprise communication. And with good reason. As Ben Werdmuller, Chief Technology Officer at Latakoo observes, email has three key advantages over prior forms of communication: 

  • Usability;
  • Accessibility (across all devices); 
  • Independence (in terms of platform, service and infrastructure). 

Throw in its low cost, interoperability, and gentle learning curve, and it’s easy to understand why email has become a staple in most organisations. 

However, times are changing.

Forward-thinking organisations are looking to collaborate in real-time, rather than asynchronously. In order to remain digitally responsive and close the feedback loop, organisations are embracing emerging social technologies to work more effectively. 

There are several reasons why email is inadequate as an enabler of real-time, sophisticated collaboration: 

Lack of transparency

By necessity, email communication is essentially closed - its viewing is restricted to specific individuals. Although this maintains confidentiality, it also has the undesirable effect of burying information within inboxes and rendering it inaccessible to other employees. 

Push, not pull method of communication

Jacob Morgan, principal of the Chess Media Group, attributes the problematic nature of email to its “force fed” nature. Morgan notes: "Email is pretty the much the equivalent of a television ad for many employees, intrusive, and not always paid attention to."

Productivity killer

Getting bogged down with managing your inbox takes valuable time away from value-adding projects and undermines meaningful collaboration.  

According to Anthony Bradley, Group Vice President of Gartner Research, impactful collaboration demands that we “break free from the steady stream of interruptions”

The verdict

Is email dead? Not quite. But it’s certainly broken. 

Over the next few years, we envisage that social collaboration will unseat email from the corporate communication pedestal.



What exactly are enterprise social collaboration networks?

Rich Wood, National Director, Modern Applications at Perficient has a concise and useful working definition
“a system that allows people within an enterprise to naturally connect with other people, documents, and data in a quick, intuitive way, and spawn meaningful discussion and collaboration fed by those connections.”

Post-it notes

Essentially, enterprise social networks allow employees to stay in the loop with colleagues, collaborate on projects and find relevant content and resources from a central platform. 

Wood also highlights the business benefits offered by enterprise social networks:
“users have a faster route to meaningful data, an easier way to communicate with and learn from others, and... a more fun and engaging way to stay connected within their corporate culture.” 

The collaboration imperative 

Implemented smartly, an enterprise social collaboration (ESC) platform allows staff to be more effective at work AND improves business outcomes. 

The intangible benefits of enterprise social collaboration - mainly focused around engagement, productivity and teamwork - have been well reported (see here and here). 

However, enterprise collaboration can also deliver tangible benefits for the bottom line. A recent study by the Aberdeen Group analysed the ESC practices of 629 organisations between August and October 2013. The year-on-year effect on business performance clearly validates the business case for implementing ESC: 

  • 55% improvement in annual company revenue
  • 96% improvement in customer response time
  • 122% improvement in project delivery time
  • 131% improvement in operational efficiency


Before abandoning email, keep in mind that implementing an enterprise social network requires a significant investment in change management. Securing and maintaining buy-in from employees and other stakeholders is also critical for effectively managing the transition process.

Implementation considerations

There are several considerations when implementing an enterprise social network. Mike Porter, Principal for Social and Portal at Perficient, does a great job at outlining some of the primary challenges involved:   
“First, I would suggest that you define your end goals. The technology must provide business value and get you to where you want to be. Second, while just the ESN [enterprise social network] portion of a project is easy to deploy, don’t underestimate the effort necessary to roll it out. Rollout will become more of a change management process rather than a development play. Third, commit for the long haul. Don’t just roll out the social network and stop there. Invest in a social champion as a full-time resource. Invest in integrating other systems into your social network (like your CRM system to the activity feed). Invest in tools like gamification to ensure uptake.” 

Although not without its obstacles, smart implementation of an enterprise social network will repay the initial investment many times over in terms of greater productivity, engagement and operational efficiency. In an age where “corporate communication is ripe for disruption”, organisations that embrace the possibilities of social collaboration will redefine the future of work.


Work re-imagined for the social era

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, there has been an emerging trend towards the “increasing use of personal third-party cloud storage and application services by employees in the enterprise”, dubbed the Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC) phenomenon. 

The BYOC trend is being driven by: “....rising demand for a simple, accessible, user-friendly storage and collaboration product that enterprises and their users will embrace.”

With this in mind, Zero has developed Stream - the social collaboration workspace for Dropbox users.

Stream is designed to offer an intuitive, engaging and powerful user experience.  

Intuitive

With its minimalist interface and intuitive design, Stream offers an immersive user experience. Stream incorporates many of the social interaction features and design elements familiar to users of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.  

Engagement

With its focus on open communication and social interaction, Stream makes collaboration simple and enjoyable. The ability to see both company-wide and opt-in updates means you’re part of an inclusive and responsive online community. 

Collaboration and knowledge sharing

In addition to chats and direct messaging, Stream enables you to share updates with specific teams or set up dedicated pages to collate information relating to key projects, departments or clients. Stream also offers a dedicated Resource Manager that stores and organises essential documents, files and content for future reference. 

Stream leverages and extends the functionality of Dropbox:

  • Smarter file management - ability to associate tags (keywords) with documents for better indexing and streamlined file search. We’ve also made it very simple to identify and distinguish different file types. 
  • Social collaboration - users can engage with colleagues, clients or partners via a dynamic feed, incorporating both high-level communication and targeted communication with a specific subset of people via personalised groups  
  • Better knowledge management - dedicated pages can be established to permanently record information relating to a topic of interest (key project, department, client and so forth)


Stream is highly scalable and flexible enough to suit teams of all sizes - freelancer, digital agency, small business or medium-to-large organisation.

Stream is reinventing collaboration for the social age.  Try it now.

Stream app

getstreamapp.com

 

Header image credit: C.M.FRIESE photography
Body content image credit: Ted Eytan
May 12, 2014 |  Posted in: Apps, CMS, Digital Strategy, Intranet, Social Media, Thought Leadership