About one month ago, Facebook announced the soon launch of their new platform “Facebook at work” after a successful 10 month pilot executed within 100 different companies. This has put back the focus on professional collaborative platforms and on the value it may have for companies implementing it.
The subject is actually not new at all and many companies have already in place some systems offered by, for example, Salesforce (Chatter), Microsoft (Yammer / Sharepoint) or IBM (Connections / Domino). Still, this approach in companies remains very rare and restricted, as if very few managers were convinced on their value. As mentioned by Dionne Lew, “only 30% of CEOs are social, and mostly because they’ve (only) signed up on LinkedIn“.
But collaboration is part of our current world and won’t fade out. That’s even part of DNA’s Younger generation. In a digital world, this is fully modifying the way to interact within the company too, and this in a positive way.
As soon as we start speaking about corporate social media, some red lights pop up in many managers mind, convinced that their employees will spend time on these platforms, more to procrastinate than to really collaborate. Moreover, even for the ones understanding that people may wish to exchange valuable contents within such platforms, they keep on thinking that experts on a domain are already very well identified and therefore can be reached directly when needed instead of spending time on such “fancy tool”.
And if we would gain in productivity?
In 2011, the famous research agency Nucleus published a case study about Salesforce’s Chatter usage where it was demonstrated that productivity was increased by 12.5 % thanks to the usage of this tool since it was reducing drastically internal email traffic and gave quicker access to work information. When we know for long that about 30% of working time is used by employees to check their emails, this is for sure a first very good argument.
In May 2013, Chess Media Group conducted a global research study, asking about 600 employees on the workplace of the future. One of the topic was usage of collaboration platforms. And what the survey revealed about it is that about 90% of workers consider that social/collaboration tools enable them to work more effectively, and 86% say their organizations have been investing in collaboration tools for the past 18 months.
Having a deeper look on the reasons of this statement, we then notice that email checking is only the seventh argument used by surveyed people. First comes the facilitation of general communication, but then also other interesting domains like file sharing/co-elaborating, idea generation, and team activity awareness.
Of course, the main view on setting up a collaboration tool is to support collaboration and innovation. One understands easily that such platform will help making the information flow moving smoothly and will actively support the permanent update of information. For example, by having such common platforms, project team may avoid to keep different versions of the same document, generating risk to not work on the right one.
Valuable side effects
But there are also very interesting side effects that a manager can consider while hesitating to go for such solution.
The first one is very IT operational. By having such platform in place, you first reduce the email traffic and then reduce logically the mailbox sizes. You also have a central document depository that everybody will share. As a consequence, you may expect having much less storage need for individual drives: documents will be stored once and not anymore sent per email (mailbox size again!), neither saved in each team member local drive…
The second one goes more on the “team spirit” direction. Often, departments suffer from communication, not only with other departments, but also internally: each of us has his own tasks and therefore focus on them without having the time to listen to what the others are doing. That’s human. By having a common board where everybody can report his daily activity, you may generate a “Facebook effect” that will increase awareness of your team’s achievements and, therefore, a stronger team consciousness. This is actually one of the key success factors identified by the Harvard Business Review in their 2007 report, “Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams“.
Last but not least, the digital era has shown us that working in silos is hiding many opportunities of synergies. And, actually, social media platforms have already shown their value through different effective cases like the famous SOLVE program from NASA for instance. Within a company, we may recognise the same phenomenon and understand that many people may have hidden skills that such collaboration tool would help to identify, and then to use with advantage as suggested for example by Social Media Explorer.
If the “why?” becomes more and more obvious after exploring these few arguments, we then come to the real challenge, which is to learn how to setup such a collaboration platform, and how to measure its’ effect. As we’ll see, this is not only a question of technology. That’s actually not that much about technology.
But this will be another story…
Related articles to explore deeper the topic:
- Dion Hinchcliffe – “When Our Organizations Became Networks“
- Jeremy Taylor – Case study: How Bupa co-ordinates multiple teams on social media
- Lior Weinstein – Ten Tips to Create a Collaborative Culture at Work
- Jacob Morgan‘s excellent book (although “old”) – The Collaborative Organization