Until relatively recently, effective coordination and collaboration between a group of people required physical proximity, regular e-mailing, phone calls and meetings. However, today it is possible to work with people from all over the world without ever meeting or even speaking to them. Indeed, the emergence of online collaboration tools is revolutionising the way businesses communicate. Furthermore, most online collaboration tools are simple, easy to use and inexpensive.
Straightforward to use like Facebook, enterprise social media tools are designed to increase collaboration, team efficiency and file sharing. Is enterprise social media big business? Judging by Microsoft’s recent purchase of Yammer for over one billion dollars, one can presume it is. Whether Microsoft will improve or destroy this acquisition is yet to be seen. However, the purchase itself states that enterprise based social media applications are going to be a serious business.
For years, businesses have suffered from systems that not only represent a governance challenge but also deliver average benefits. A good example is SharePoint and its file and directory tree structure. Apart from being slow and difficult to use, these systems require almost constant dedication of administrators and engage the entire team in naming conventions and version control. These software systems have established themselves as efficient archiving systems with the purpose of storage and data maintenance. However, when it comes to tasks and projects that are in development or production and involve teamwork, they are relatively ineffective in comparison to social enterprise collaboration tools.
Similar to the new wave of web based tools, enterprise social media applications are widely accessible across almost all devices. It is easy to stay up to date with Yammer since it has clients for PC, Mac, Android, IOS and of course a web client. Chatter has similar access features. It’s hard to achieve the far-reaching accessibility of Yammer and Chatter with a traditional network configuration.
One of the greatest features of enterprise social media tools is that they provide easy upload of files and links to web pages. This facilitates reviewing of a document, an idea, commenting on a web page and providing feedback; moreover, the feedback and remarks are transparent. This transparency gives an insight into a conversation to the indirect participants, therefore cutting the endless thread of emails received on a daily basis. Instead of searching through email lists, or waiting for an email, it is possible to simply go online and look through the groups or discussion threads.
Imagine being able to create dedicated groups by invitation only. Depending on how your business functions, there might be a benefit in having suppliers, customers, consultants, or contractors participating in a social media group. Groups can be setup internally so that conversations remain team-relevant. For example, it might be useful to separate a sales group from an engineering group and create yet another group for senior management.
Enterprise social media create an ability to break down the often distant relationship between top management and employees. Discussions can pass through the entire organisation in an informal and meaningful way. Problem solving takes on a whole new approach if it involves more people and more interaction. Ideas can move faster from employees in one department to directors or strategists in the company, skipping the formalities. This does not necessarily mean that an employee bypasses middle management – it means that a director can follow conversations inside the company and take action when necessary as he has access to the history of the conversations visible to everybody.
Enterprise social media tools promote communication, discussion and transparency in an organisation. Internally at GCOMM, we are familiar with the use of both Yammer and Chatter. We prefer Yammer’s functionality but with a recent acquisition of Salesforce.com we made a concession and are now using Chatter. The explosion of Software as a Service (SaaS) creates the necessity of making compromises in features and functionality for the purpose of achieving a well-rounded and integrated Management Information System (MIS).
Standard features include the “Follow” option which is used for tracking actions of an individual or a group, as well as private messaging and users’ profile features, similar to Facebook. There are some features of Yammer that Chatter currently does not support; however keeping up with trends, both Yammer and Chatter will eventually have similar feature sets. “Praise” is a great Yammer feature that provides an option for posting an award when someone does a good job. Another great feature is creating polls, which is simple to use and offers an opportunity for a group to easily choose a location for a Christmas party, for example. Furthermore, creating announcements and dedicated pages for topics are also very useful Yammer features.
Persistence in innovation is what will keep companies in business for the long term. Generation Y has been brought up on collaboration tools and those companies that set innovation and adoption of technology as their major priorities will attract this generation’s attention. Since social media tools are exactly the type of technology that Generation Y uses on a daily basis, companies that introduce collaboration tools can expect an increasing involvement and a growing participation of Generation Y in the company. Similarly, companies that were early adopters of computers enjoyed the same benefits. Today’s equivalent is the software and the manner in which it is used.
A Salesforce subscription includes 5,000 free licenses of Chatter. Salesforce costs around $2,000 per user for a full annual license, which is not inexpensive. On the other hand, Yammer has a free version, which is often sufficient. However, connectivity to third party applications, advanced features and domain reservation costs $5 per month per user. Given the fact that Microsoft has purchased Yammer, it is hard to predict the future pricing.
The impact enterprise social media can have on a business is significant. Companies that are trying to decide whether to implement one of the SaaS applications should take into consideration the following: the development of certain internal policies that define and govern what is and what is not acceptable for publishing and the creation of a software guide for the employees are necessary. A similar case applies to emailing – it’s worth getting some advice on maintaining and keeping records. Companies that embrace the technology may expect potential legal implications connected to its use.
Enterprise social media is surely something that is going to liven up a company. The implementation of enterprise social media tools is fast and simple – since most people are already using some sort of social media, the training component is negligible.
Whilst not every company will adopt enterprise social media, it’s certainly worth a look.♦ End