5 Tips for Choosing the Right Enterprise Social Platform
Written by Matt Cameron, General Manager, Asia Pacific at Yammer Inc.
Employees across the world, at companies of all sizes and in every industry, are witnessing a major cultural shift to a more open and transparent workplace. Fuelling this trend is the social media revolution pioneered by Facebook and Twitter. However, the potential for social networking to enrich communication and engagement inside the workplace is even greater.
The benefits are clear: enterprise social networks (ESNs) help employees to collaborate across departments, geographies and organisations, breaking down silos while fostering more engaged employees. ESNs also offer a means of aligning knowledge workers to a company’s mission, values and overall strategy. Finally, employees can work together better and smarter by socialising their business operations.
The question, then, is how do IT and business leaders determine which social enterprise tool is right for their organisation? Moreover, how can they ensure that rolling out an internal social network will help them carry out everyday business priorities such as growth, talent retention, cost optimisation and innovation?
While use cases for social business vary from company to company, there are five key requirements for selecting an enterprise social network that should not be overlooked:
1. Inspires voluntary adoption -- One of the biggest mistakes companies make in choosing social software is mandating solutions without consulting the end users -- the employees themselves. Because collaboration is an activity that requires voluntary participation, you cannot force employees to share. If employees do not adopt the software voluntarily, there are no business benefits. On the contrary, when IT gives end users a choice and employees are able to select a social platform they actually want to use, it is much more likely that companies will see tangible business results and an increase in productivity. Furthermore, organisations can prove adoption and engagement before making a more significant investment in the technology.
2. Socially connects all of your enterprise systems -- When choosing a social business tool, don’t look for an add-on. A successful social enterprise seamlessly connects all systems of record so that users do not have to switch back and forth between third party business applications. For example, many large organisations use separate departmental tools for CRM, ERP and document management. An effective social platform will link all of these systems together, creating one searchable, discoverable knowledge base through which all employees can communicate and collaborate in real-time. Moreover, employees must be able to take action on this third-party data from within the enterprise social network, simplifying the process of getting work done across departmental apps.
3. Scales across your customers, employees and partners -- Enterprise social networking is no longer just for internal communications; it is also for external collaboration among customers, partners, agencies and suppliers. It is crucial to evaluate your communication needs to determine with whom your company communicates on a day-to-day basis, and over what channels you currently do so. Perhaps you use email to work with your PR agency, instant messaging to speak with development partners and Twitter to respond to customers. Look for a platform that will streamline communication with external parties, while also boosting efficiency internally. Next generation social enterprises are implementing enterprise social networks to collaborate with internal and external audiences of all sizes.
4. Offers robust administrative controls -- While voluntary adoption allows end users to choose a user-friendly platform, the chosen solution must be secure. A sound social platform allows you to:
- Manage your network -- Bulk provision users, sync with directories, set usage policies
- Control Your Data -- Track sensitive content, export data for eDiscovery
- Secure Your Users -- Enable single sign-on, set password policies, restrict access
5. Resources for customer success -- Enterprise social networks have the potential to drive business alignment and agility, reduce cycle times, increase employee engagement and improve relationships with customers and affiliates, but this doesn’t always happen overnight. A successful social enterprise thrives with the support of social business consultants who can impart implementation best practices and offer ongoing training and support. Taking advantage of additional resources such as customer communities and real-time analytics can also help organisations optimise their social channels. Deploying new technologies enterprise-wide is always a significant undertaking, but harnessing the expertise of social business professionals will greatly enhance both short and long term ROI.
Business and IT have to meet in the middle to choose a solution that is both user-friendly and technically secure. When the right tool is selected, embracing the new social enterprise is a win for executives and employees alike.
Matt Cameron is responsible for ensuring the continued success of existing Yammer customers in APAC as well as building out the local sales and customer success teams to address the considerable growth opportunities in the region. Prior to joining Yammer, Matt served as co-founder and CEO of WhoTo, a sales intelligence tool that leverages the Linkedin graph and semantic analysis of web data to provide salespeople with competitive insights and customer activity monitoring. Matt also held sales and marketing positions at Salesforce.com, EDS NZ Ltd., Gen-i and Hewlett-Packard.
Q&A: Professor Loredana Padurean, Asia School of Business
As someone who is creating Asia Pacific’s business leaders of the future, what do you believe are the essential skills leaders require?
In many ways, we need leaders who are Renaissance women/men or polymaths, as opposed to specialists of an industry or a field. A polymath is a person with profound knowledge, proficiency and expertise in multiple fields and today’s leaders have to be able to combine various ideas, look at problems in novel and useful ways, and develop a broad and yet still deep set of skills, talents, and knowledge.
You’ve coined ‘smart’ and ‘sharp’ as skills of the future. What are these?
They are replacements for ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills, a concept coined by a US Army doctor in 1972 who observed that his pupils had different skills: dealing with machinery required ‘hard’ skills, while dealing with people and paper were ‘soft’ skills. This concept has served us well since, but I find it too binary, not to mention the semantic implications of the words themselves.
Soft implies gentle, delicate, mild, quiet, tender, weak. However, there is nothing soft in navigating competing perspectives and cultures, handling and delivering critical feedback or dealing with office politics. Instead, I prefer to call these skills ‘smart’. Hard implies rigid, difficult, heavy, static. But how can we think of engineering or software development as static or rigid? I believe ‘sharp’ is more apt as such skills need constant updating or sharpening.
I think it’s time to reflect on these classifications, because we can drastically change someone’s perspective by how we choose to talk about and frame something.
How important are smart skills in leadership today?
Smart skills are more important than ever because we live in a world of extreme diversity: generational, ethical, value-based, gender, etc. Gone are the days when giving an order was an effective act of leadership. I personally work with people from five different continents and across five different generations, therefore as leaders, we need to know how to adapt, motivate, inspire and connect. We need to increase our investment in learning about them in action, especially as smart skills are more difficult to develop.
I believe that a successful leader today has to be both smart and sharp. Take cognitive readiness, one of my top 10 smart skills. In order to be cognitive ready, one has to master system dynamics, one of my top 10 sharp skills. Also, did you know that one of the primary reasons why digital transformation fails is not the absence of digital literacy, a sharp skill, but the need for more validation and adaptability, both smart skills. So, instead of thinking of these skills as binary, I prefer to think of them as the yin and yang; co-existing and complementing each other.
So, you can teach leaders smart skills then?
Yes, you can, via a combination of the classroom experience, plus an action component supported by deeply embedded reflection. At ASB we call this Action Learning, and we teach it both in the MBA and in the executive programs. For example, in teaching a leader emotional maturity as a smart skill, first they need to learn what it is, and then act on it, before reflecting on what we did and how we did it. And then to repeat it, but this time with more expertise and awareness. It’s not easy, but that’s why my favourite mantra is ‘the job is easy, the people are not’.
Discover Professor Padurean's successful skills for a digital transformation here