The benefits of adopting Enterprise Social Networking are in no short supply with each vendor and analyst promoting various qualities. The benefits however only explain half the story and fall short of revealing the key drivers spurring large companies to actually implement a business social network. This article identifies four key drivers for corporations initiating adoption and how enterprise social networking is used to facilitate these objectives.
1. There is a current communication crisis either with employees or customers that requires immediate attention. Direct and transparent communication is often considered the most effective way to diffuse difficult business situations. Enterprise social networks by their nature facilitate this objective and are attractive to deploy because of their speed to implementation.
A recent case study explains how a Mumba Cloud client was dealing with a crisis whereby local community and government safety concerns were causing disruption within their manufacturing plants. The media were fuelling the tensions creating a difficult situation for all stakeholders. By communicating directly with employees on the shop floor, the company was seeking to avoid ‘cascade of information’ issues so that employees could better understand the situation. The plan was that educated employees would be better positioned to talk with their family and friends thereby alleviating concerns and regaining trust. This is also a prime example of how enterprise social networking capabilities are maximised to meet specific business objectives.
One contrary point worth noting is that social business software can sometimes take time to settle within an organisation. Deployment during a heated crisis may back-fire as negative opinion could be amplified across the employee community. Strong moderation and configuration capabilities are essential during crisis management to ensure control of information flow.
2. There is a structural company change or new business initiative that may cause employees uncertainty and discomfort. Effective and regular communication is valued as a key component for completing successful change management projects. Business acquisitions or restructures often lead to losses in productivity when staff become concerned about their future and retaining valuable employees is difficult during periods of insecurity. Enterprise social networks are sought after communication vehicles that are implemented to disseminate important information to targeted groups of employees. Regular employee updates and closed feedback loops are supported by the network thereby increasing the prospects of a successful change management project.
3. Cumbersom and expensive IT systems are slowly being decommissioned or don’t align with the brand of the company. Enterprise Social Networking platforms usually offer integration into older legacy systems or provide a feasible alternative for replacement. Younger employees entering the workforce expect an intuitive, modern user interface that older systems do not support. Enterprise social networking platforms with systems integration offer a unique compromise by allowing legacy systems to retain their function while upgrading and building upon the interface. Furthermore, access via mobile and tablet extends the reach of IT systems to employees outside of the secure office network.
4. Business complexity has reached a tipping point where the executive leadership needs to find new ways to communicate, transact and perform basic functions across subsidiaries, geographic regions, dispersed departments or teams. Enterprise social networking provides the tools required to break down silos and connect dispersed employees. Established communication channels are often expanded and new channels created. Enterprise platforms support a variety of complex communication channels by introducing automation and accessibility. Business goals usually include increases in productivity and efficiency with workflows being integrated into the social business interface.
While these drivers spark the initial adoption of enterprise social software, it is important to develop a robust strategy for maximising the value of the network over a longer period of time (we suggest five years). We recently published an article that summarizes our Consulting and Implementation Framework. This proprietary information is being shared to benefit all parties as a deeper understanding will be of advantage to the industry as a whole.
Finally, this article is related to current trends we’ve encountered during our consulting and sales processes in large enterprise companies throughout Australia. Although Mumba Cloud seldom works with small to medium businesses it is clear that the reasons for adoption would differ from those discussed above. Small to medium businesses exhibit faster decision making processes, less corporate complexity and fewer legacy IT systems. Management are usually better engaged with employees and often have easier access with face to face meetings.
Enterprise social networking is not a one-size-fits-all solution therefore large corporations seeking to leverage this emerging technology should consult their local vendors and consultancies to determine the right strategy for implementation.