There is no doubt that public social network platforms have created a collaborative culture. People now feel the need and understand the value of collaboration in everything they do.
On the good side, this has given birth to enterprise collaboration software, as employees and customers demand the same experience at work.
On the flip side, some organizations have adopted public facing platforms like Facebook for internal collaboration, challenging IT demands for privacy, security, and compliance.
The decision of whether to adopt an enterprise collaboration platform or a public platform (like Facebook) is of concern especially when an organization is limited by finances, time, and skill sets. While public platforms generally come with little to no overhead costs, are easy to implement, and pervasive, an enterprise solution is built for true collaboration and goes beyond the basic online collaboration offered by public social networks.
Most public social network platforms like Facebook are built with one thing in mind: to onboard as many people as possible and make money through advertising.
The idea is to share everything with everybody and only restrict when absolutely necessary. As a result, any privacy settings on such platforms are set up with the assumption that users want to share everything with the world.
The issue of privacy across social networks has been well documented. Accidental sharing and the risks of information being shared with advertisers are very real on such platforms. Privacy terms keep on being reviewed to fit the networks' advertising models. For organizations handling client information, the issue of compliance also comes into play. It is much more difficult to implement SLAs when communication is done across social networks than within a firewalled platform.
Enterprise collaboration platforms are built to provide a social layer between employees and the business. They are more versatile and include a variety of productivity tools like instant messaging, document management, calendars, task management, and video conferencing. These platforms impact business in a number of ways by changing employee behavior.
Think of the improved engagement with partners and consumers that a dedicated platform affords your business. An enterprise collaboration platform makes it much easier to mobilize experts and stakeholders with the ability to customize and personalize public relations messages. The ability to integrate your ERP and CRM into your collaboration platforms will increase productivity dramatically rather than having to work with siloed systems that offer little value as standalones.
Transforming a company culture and improving specific business processes strategically is also much easier when you have a firewalled social system in place. A social approach in the workplace can help break down bureaucracy and hierarchy that hinder progress. Employees feel empowered when they are able to take action. All this is achievable when companies approach social networks as a way to build relationships in the workplace and not as a technology trend.
The proliferation of personal devices and different means of communications has created a new breed of users, employees, and customers with new expectations. The demand for flexible work patterns has demanded innovative approaches to improving workplace productivity.
Employees' expectations are now a notch higher than a decade or even five years ago. They now own a range of devices with powerful applications. They expect their work and home environments to be more seamless.
Customer expectations have changed dramatically as well. They want more personalized services and they want them now. Providing instant responses to customer queries is one of the main things helping organizations stay competitive. While public platforms no doubt enable quick responses, queries quickly become unmanageable when you have to respond to an ever growing list of customers, employees, and partners.
Personalizing or customizing a public social network like Facebook is difficult ... ahem ... impossible. As a mass consumer product, there is little you can do in how you organize your documents and how you interact with your coworkers and teams. Search capabilities are thinly spread and tracking down conversations becomes a headache when you have to go back to a conversation you had months or years ago. These platforms are great when you have an instant need to connect, but fail hard when you need a document management system that keeps an organized archive of your activity.
Employee engagement has always been a hard nut to crack. While social media may often be considered the marketing department's foster child, it affects the entire organization and has the potential to deliver immediate solutions when implemented right. The familiarity of Twitter and Facebook makes enterprise collaboration software friendly and easy to use. These platforms are also significant to how employees learn and interact.
Placing an ROI on adoption and user engagement is difficult and challenging, but the productivity rewards are very real. The true potential of enterprise social collaboration is yet to be fully realized as the question of whether an enterprise solution is better than a public platform continues to perplex many organizations.
For brands and businesses, everything starts with investing in an employee culture that embodies the organization's vision and enterprise social networking software is well positioned to do exactly that.
Tim is a co-founder and president of Axero and the author of his forthcoming book, Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Break Down the Invisible Barriers to Employee Engagement. He's spilt insightful ink on the pages of Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur.com, CNBC, Today, and other top publications.
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