Social Computing for the Enterprise: Tool or Toy?
When it comes to improving enterprise productivity, is social computing emerging as a business fundamental or a big waste of time?
There’s a lot more to social computing than Twitter and Facebook. Enterprises are using these emerging social computing technologies to improve collaboration among employees, clients and vendors around the globe – sometimes with mixed results. Is social computing a productivity tool or a work distraction?
Here is the debate:
It’s a productivity tool.
Social computing sets the stage for a major leap in business collaboration.
|Social computing is the new frontier of productivity, helping employees across the enterprise and around the world work together to problem-solve and innovate.||Leave the problem solving and innovation to the professionals. We know who our skilled resources are. It’s more efficient for us to tap into them directly.|
|Social computing is the norm for a new generation of talent. It’s how they communicate, connect and collaborate. They expect employers to provide the tools they need.||It’s time to grow up. New employees should adapt to the business, rather than the other way around.|
|When an employee leaves, they take their knowledge capital with them. Social computing provides ways to create, preserve and share institutional knowledge across the organization.||The IT department has deployed lots of tools. Just because there’s a shiny new tool doesn’t mean that people will take the time to document what they know. Isn’t this just knowledge management with a different name?|
It’s a toy.
Social computing is a time-waster disguised as work.
|Who needs more digital overload? Employees are already weighted down with emails and websites. Why add to the pile?||Social computing can help sort and filter communications and information, not add to the pile.|
|We can’t give employees free reign to contact people up and down the organization. What happens when junior analysts ask to “friend” executive VPs?||Employees will get what they need one way or another. If control is important, make quality tools available to everyone. Then you can guide and monitor usage.|
|Think of the brand and security risks. What if someone tweets proprietary information and it goes viral? Social computing is too easy to misuse or abuse.||That’s what a social computing strategy is for. Policies, training, monitoring, software – there are demonstrated ways to reduce risk exposure.|
Doug Palmer, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP
Many companies have already adopted social computing technologies to build customer relationships and brand recognition, but fewer are using them as an enterprise productivity tool.
As an early adopter of social computing ourselves, we’ve seen considerable improvement in collaboration among our employees and clients. Here are a few lessons we’ve learned along the way:
- Start with a business problem. Employees use tools that help them work smarter and they ignore tools that don’t add value. Before you install social software, identify the business problem you want to solve and build from there.
- A new way of working. Social computing can help your organization identify experienced resources, generate new ideas and engage your personnel in solving your most challenging problems. If done right, this has potential to reduce e-mails while increasing communication across organizational boundaries. A thriving social site requires resources dedicated to adding and linking fresh content, engaging and training participants and monitoring problems.
- Use pilot projects. Practice rapid prototyping - deploy functionality quickly and continually improve rather than overdesign. Learn from your users and evolve your technology and your business processes.
- Understand motivation. Many heavy users of social media and collaboration environments are often more motivated by opportunities to extend their social connections and reputation than by traditional incentives and rewards. Engage these people early-on if you want to create a collaborative environment that’s community-centric, rather than product or organization-centric. They’ll be your toughest critics and biggest promoters.
The bottom line: Social computing can boost enterprise productivity, but remember that it’s about the people, not just the technology.
A view from the Life Sciences sector
Chris Franck, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP
In the pharmaceutical industry, one of the most interesting and innovative uses of social networking is to improve the efficiency of recruiting patients for clinical trials. This addresses a big research and development problem for the biopharmaceutical industry: nearly 80 percent of clinical trials fail to attract enough qualified patients.1
One client, a large contract research organization (CRO), developed a website that allows patients to monitor their prescribed drugs for side effects and other safety issues. The perceived value of the site has allowed our client to attract over 2 million members. The CRO collects information from the website’s members through polls, questionnaires and surveys. This data provides its pharmaceutical clients with the information they need to design criteria for clinical trials that will attract qualified patients.
In this case, social networking provides a win-win. Patients have access to valuable information and drug companies have real-world patient feedback that allows them to finish drug trials more quickly and effectively.
A view from the Talent perspective
Joseph Press, Specialist Leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP
It’s exciting to see how social computing is transforming the talent agenda of many organizations. HR now focuses on building communities to attract, develop and retain talent. To achieve the potential benefits, we recommend a few basic strategies:
- Connect candidates to your leading employees. A global food company attracts new talent through ‘day-in-the-life’ blogs and videos created by employees and posted on its career website.
- Develop and engage talent with media-rich communities. A global manufacturing company transformed expensive, face-to-face training into dynamic on-demand how-to videos, knowledge networks and interactive games.
- Retain talent with transparent relationships. Rather than communicate via email, many companies use interactive online portals and social tools to deliver leadership and distributed team communications.
While social computing can help create a more collaborative, transparent culture, don’t dive in without a smart plan that’s integrated with your overall talent strategy. Most importantly, if HR and leadership work together to embed social tools and a culture of collaboration, the organization’s people will contribute to improving productivity, innovation and growth.
A view from the Retail sector
Kasey Lobaugh, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP
We’ve all seen how consumers’ service expectations have skyrocketed in recent years. In response, some companies are using social media tools to help their employees tap each other’s knowledge to provide better, quicker service. For example, one national retailer uses Twitter to connect their sales representatives as a virtual customer-service resource. Customers ask questions through Twitter and any member of their national sales staff can respond. But strategies like these can backfire without a good plan in place. Here are some things to consider:
- Find your competitive advantage. What employee knowledge may give your organization a competitive advantage? How do you make that knowledge available across your internal network? What employee training, policies and resources will be needed?
- Think like a customer. What information would a customer expect to be available at customer touch points? How can your organization create the infrastructure necessary to capture and make that information available?
Our experience shows that organizations that leverage their employee networks as competitive assets have an advantage in the battle for consumer mind-share.
1 October, 2005. Hess, Jon. Web-based Patient Recruitment. Cutting Edge Information.
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