Despite the rapid uptake of enterprise social software, few organisations are fully utilising, or even fully aware of, the scope of the social capabilities they either have in place or are considering investment in.
- Social networking
- Group collaboration
- Document collaboration
- Structured ideation and problem solving
- Mobile access
- System integration
1. Social networking
Forming the front-end to nearly all enterprise social software is the familiar social networking interface. This comprises of common elements and interactions including likes, follows, comments, mentions and hash tags (using the ‘@’ and ‘#’ syntax), status updates asking ‘What are you working on?’, recommended users, profile pages, an instant message box (often with presence awareness) and the ability to attach images and files.
Many ESN products are also now building in more enterprise-oriented interactions including ‘praise a colleague’, while adapted language, for example changing ‘friends’ to ‘colleagues’, is the norm.
Social networking is really the essence of enterprise social. The prompts, call-outs and interactions primarily demonstrate our behaviours in an online space, and provide the ‘life’ of the environment.
2. Group collaboration
Online collaboration typically already happens across multiple channels – email, team sites, even shared drives can qualify. Yet these environments and tools are typically independent of one another, one-dimensional and they were designed eons ago with completely different objectives in mind. Enterprise social software provides a rich layer of interactivity that combines these one-dimensional tools and brings them into a contemporary, unified interface.
Existing team, project and common interest spaces can be replaced or complemented by the more interactive equivalent provided by enterprise social software products. Often this can be done with little to no loss of data or inherent structure. For example, Newsgator Social Sites Communities can augment basic SharePoint team sites, combining the features of both products.
3. Document collaboration
Document collaboration – on text files, spreadsheets and even presentations – is a capability driven mainly by the advances in cloud applications such as Microsoft’s web apps. While central document storage and version control has long been possible, web app versions of Word, for example, enable simultaneous, real-time collaboration in the form of co-authoring, commenting and more. Actions and tasks are associated with a colleague’s profile, and their actions can be surfaced in the document and, if suitable, parts of the broader environment.
Document collaboration is a substantial advancement in productivity tools, and on first use it can often be an inspiring one, because it’s so much better than the traditional modes of working, sharing and collaborating on files. As a social and collaborative capability, this is one of the more powerful demonstrations of the potential of enterprise social tools.
4. Crowd-based ideation and problem solving
Structured ideation and problem solving is a wonderful capability of enterprise social software. It provides a framework that both utilises the inherent potential of enterprise social tools – global reach and potential participation of a whole organisation, speed of interactions, modern interfaces – and a structure that gives employees clarity and purpose for getting involved.
5. Mobile access
This is not usually the fault of the chosen product, as most have mobile applications that are under constant improvement and range from merely capable to superb (Yammer is an excellent example of constant mobile iterations). The issue can often lie more with strict IT or organisational policies and strategies that lag behind evolving working practices and the increasing technical sophistication of employees, and that mandate disconnecting mobile devices from any system beyond email.
Put simply, enterprise social tools and networks must be available on mobile devices. This enables anytime connectivity to the whole organization in a ways that just haven’t previously been possible. It also enables engagement with the organisation at times a traditional intranet cannot; at the bus stop, waiting for a meeting to start, in the lunch queue – ‘interstitial’ time – which we now want to occupy, often with social network interaction.
Social in the context of your business