There is no doubt that the world of social networking has been heating up. As Facebook has captured the attention of the consumer world, many organizations are looking at how they can use social networking within a business context. It’s a frothy market, and there’s a lot of noise – and the stand-alone vendors have historically been more focused on features and functions than on real business outcomes. Our view is that social is about putting people at the center of your business – helping employees, customers, and partners connect with the people and information they need to complete specific tasks. People interact with your organization all day, every day, and they’re trying to get things done. Customers want to buy things and get their questions answered. Partners need to perform services and make deliveries. Employees need to complete tasks. Social helps all of these people get things done.
To make a real business impact with social, companies must provide both a connected experience and a connected social platform.
The connected experience
Social should unify a business, not fragment it. Most social technologies today require people to go to yet another place to connect with each other, when what they really need are tools that are woven into the fabric of the tools they already use. The last thing you need is another inbox.
We recently conducted research with Harris Interactive (download the summary), asking 202 business and IT decision makers in organizations with more than 1,000 employees here in the U.S. why they are implementing enterprise social networking solutions and where they see value. The results showed that when looking at the type of features organizations want in a social solution, sixty-seven percent of decision makers said instant messaging, sixty-four percent said email, and sixty-two percent said video conferencing. It was only after those that they started to say things like “likes,” “follows,” and activity streams.
By bringing all of these features together, you’re able to augment collaboration and leverage a new type of communication social introduces: serendipity (or “connecting the dots”). For example, I was in Boston last week and because I let my network know I would be at the Cambridge office, a member of the team there reached out, and we were able to have a short meeting about some very important work they’re doing. If I hadn’t shared that update, I never would have connected with the team. There’s real value in creating and leveraging those serendipitous moments.
The connected platform
A connected platform is also critical to success. According to the Harris research, ninety percent of decision makers cited security as a top concern when it comes to social; sixty-six percent are concerned about integration with other systems; and fifty-three percent are worried about compliance. A connected platform approach addresses all of those concerns, as well as ensures you have a strong system in place to manage and analyze the data your social graph generates.
The research also showed that we’re still in the very early stages, as only thirty percent of decision makers had implemented a social solution broadly across their organizations. The majority of respondents – forty-eight percent – were still in a small, pilot phase. So as we look at how companies can be successful, a pilot phase is common and a great way to address your company’s unique culture and business needs. Once you have a solid approach in place, you can start to think about expanding more broadly across your organization or add additional functionality.
Social is here to stay
Social is a big area of investment for us because it speaks to our vision for the Microsoft Office Division: putting people –employees, customers, and partners – at the center of your business to get tasks and real work done. A connected experience infuses social into the places where people already work, making the interactions more meaningful and task-oriented. A connected platform helps you manage and secure the information and interactions in the enterprise social network. If you’re looking for examples of successful social solutions, see how three Fortune 500 companies have fostered a social online community across their organizations: download the whitepaper.
So, what do you think? How are you using social? Or are you using social? Join me for a Facebook Live Chat on Thursday, March 29 at 11 a.m. Pacific. Bring your questions and thoughts on enterprise social networking.
Look forward to talking with you then!
Our view is that social is about putting people at the center of your business – helping employees, customers, and partners connect with the people and information they need to complete specific tasks. People interact with your organization all day, every day, and they’re trying to get things done. Customers want to buy things and get their questions answered. Partners need to perform services and make deliveries. Employees need to complete tasks. Social helps all of these people get things done.