Social Networking and the Enterprise

By Arindam Sen, SVP, Schneider Electric

1. What are the deeper goals of En­terprise Social Networking apart from providing simple content crea­tion tools for everyone in the enter­prise?

Enterprise Social has many goals that could be classified into two broad categories: Social for the Enterprise and Social for Teams

1. Social for the Enterprise: Potential use cases

▪ The Social intranet: The social intranet is fast emerging as a new concept replacing traditional static intranets globally. The ability to pro­vide instant feedback and the ability to subscribe to relevant information is a much better option than to just push static content which might not be relevant to every employee.

▪ External Collaboration: Often employees need a way to manage collaboration with external partners, vendors or even customers. Email just does not cut it today and the abil­ity to collaborate in real time far su­persedes the value provided by email communication.

▪ Share content beyond just mes­sages or text: Enterprise social pro­vides the capability to share videos, blogs, pictures, files etc and then collaborate around them. This is ex­tremely relevant to the world we live in today.

2. Social for Teams: Potential use Cases

▪ Activity based Collaboration: All the above applies to teams as well and Social platforms also provide teams that are working on common projects/ goals etc to communicate effectively and collaborate on items that are specific to the projects that they are working on.

2. The common theme across various software solutions offering Enter­prise Social Networking solutions is the use of an “Activity Stream”. How is this helping the enterprise social trend to grow?

▪ Activity Streams help signifi­cantly in the Team's collaboration since they provide a workspace for teams where in the members of a team can exchange posts, provide feedback, share files, videos, attach­ments etc. Further these Activity Streams can be broken down by type of project or goal so that one can eas­ily keep tab on all the items related to the projects that he or she is working on. Further, Activity Streams help segregate and provide secure areas for teams to be isolated from each other. For example, on one activity stream you could be working with exter­nal customers on a discussion while on another you could potentially be discussing with internal teams, an opportunity. For sure, you would like to keep these discussions sepa­rate from each other. This becomes extremely difficult in standard email communication. Often, the com­munication becomes hard to follow and sometimes important details are missed. There is no way to tag peo­ple, subjects or topics in email com­munication. This is where Activity Streams provide a big boost to Social within the enterprise.

3. How can IT solutions help harness the power of social within the enter­prise?

▪ IT Solutions today are increas­ingly embedding social within. For example, your social platform could be extended via API’s to other plat­forms such as HR, ERP, CRM and so on. Today, Social is a big part of CRM solutions such as Salesforce. com where in you can collaborate ef­fectively around Sales opportunities and other Sales objects. The intent of Social is to provide real time feedback and not having to share links, point­ers etc via email. The average person today reads less and less emails since there is this constant requirement to sift through hundreds of mails to find what is required and ultimately the flow of communication is clearly missing. Back to the CRM example, imagine you were working on a large deal in India with a global customer and you wanted to reach out to your sales community to find out if some­one else has had a similar experience. Imagine trying to do that via email!. This is precisely where you can con­nect with the rest of the company on a social platform, find the right peo­ple and engage with them. That is the power of Social within the enterprise.

4. With people belonging to multiple communities and sharing informa­tion with any and every appropri­ate stakeholder, social collaboration software can simply be a source of yet more information overload? How is the issue of scalability taken care here?

▪ It is the contrary. Today, social plat­forms are intelligent enough to help you navigate your organization effec­tively. You can setup communities, subjects, and hierarchical flow within your social platforms. This provides the end user the capability to sub­scribe to specific channels of commu­nication. This is like what you would do today with your satellite TV, you only subscribe to the channels that you watch. Increasingly, social plat­forms are providing better methods to reduce the amount of ‘clutter’ and ‘noise’ so that you can only see what is relevant to you.

5. What is the future of this trend in India and what major benefits are yet to be reaped from this?

▪ This is extremely relevant to In­dia because the adoption of Social within the personal workspace is sig­nificant and with a young workforce the adoption of Social within the enterprise can be quite quick. There are quite a few companies that have already adopted Social. There are no specific benefits to India as such since the global benefits apply to India as well.

As a final note, email as a com­munication method is slowly losing the importance it used to. This is pri­marily due to the limited ability to do much more than just text based point to point exchange. For sure, email provides you the ability to exchange documents etc but you are often lim­ited by size and other parameters. The biggest disadvantage of email however is the inability to track flow of communication with respect to an activity or topic. The future of collaboration and communication is clearly the Enterprise Social platform. On one hand, it provides you the ability to quickly dissipate different types of communication with every­one within an enterprise while on the other it helps bring teams closer by providing them with a platform to exchange ideas, thoughts and share best practices. And this is further ex­tended by making all this available on mobile devices as well. As a next step this unstructured information can be further harnessed using analyti­cal tools to further extend the power of Social.

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