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6 Steps to integrate social communications
Just a few years ago, businesses found it standard practice to communicate solely through telephone calls and face-to-face meetings. But with the evolving nature of business and expanding global reach of companies, tools for communication need to equally progress to enable companies to stay competitive in today’s marketplace.
Interactions with colleagues, customers and partners are now much more complex and fluid. Competitive pressures, combined with easy access to information online, especially from smart mobile devices, have set the expectation that collaboration occurs instantaneously. Questions are answered in seconds rather than minutes or days, as people from all around the world come together as if they are in the same room. Typing speeds on devices are now further advancing the human ability to type with advanced software capability to predict words as they are typed.
It is clear that the way employees interact is fundamentally changing. To drive greater success, organizations need to unify their traditional communications infrastructure and channels with a broader mix of collaboration tools, including social networking and social media.
Enter social communications
Social communications involves the marriage of traditional communication tools such as telephony and video, with newer social networking and social media tools. This integrated approach is helping to take enterprise collaboration to the next level, and revolutionizing the ways that people and businesses communicate.
Social communications makes it possible for geographically distributed employees to work together seamlessly, and is efficiently changing the way businesses operate and ultimately respond to their markets.
Here are six steps to easily integrate social communications into business strategy:
1. Determine which social tools are being used
Are people in your organization tweeting? Are they on Facebook or LinkedIn? If so, then good news: you have already taken the first step. Look around and you will see people traveling with their tablets, taking calls on their smartphones and tweeting with colleagues and friends.
2. Determine how to best manage this interaction
Ask yourself, “How can I help people actually get work done, better and more efficiently, across their social networks?” The key is real-time communication. Helping to conduct an expertise search, based upon people in your social networks, allows work to be done more quickly. The analytics tools in the social network helps identify people who should connect and work together on a particular project based upon their knowledge of a certain subject, whether it be legal matters or pricing issues.
The real-time aspect allows users to see who’s available right now. It eliminates the need for sharing conference call information and coordinating schedules. This can also be useful for bringing in an external counsel. If you connect with someone via a social network, you can invite them to a meeting and use a tool with co-editing features to collaborate on a document - a contract, for example. Something that would have taken hours, perhaps even days, is now completed in a matter of minutes.
3. Ensure the social tools your organization uses provide seamless integration features
When deciding which social tools your organization should use, keep in mind that the most important factors are seamlessness and integration. Make sure you choose social tools that will work with your telephony systems. Do you have video investments? It should integrate with those, too. Since the mobile workforce is expected to reach more than 1.19 billion people by 2013, mobile support is especially critical. The various operating systems that support today's smartphones, tablets, and other devices need to integrate with your social communications strategy.
4. Be aware of security and privacy of information
Email and instant messaging come with their own risks – such as viruses, spam and phishing attacks. Similarly, social networking opens up its own risk of information leakage risks. Encourage adoption by educating people on how to properly use their social network. Not everything should be posted publicly, and employees must be shown what is and isn’t okay to share in public domain. Many products offer control mechanisms that assist in compliance by allowing some posts to be blocked. And be sure you have archives so there is a historic record of what has been said.
5. Hone in on the benefits of social
If you want to measure the benefits, look at overall productivity and efficiency. If someone can more easily find another person via social connections, then they are more likely to ask for information. The net result is that the task at hand takes less time, and also that important materials are subject to additional review. A proposal, for example, can go out the door having undergone scrutiny by more sets of eyes. Overall collective decision making is facilitated for multi skill teams geographically placed all over the world to come together and collaborate.
6. Understand the cost savings
There are additional cost savings around managing communications cost. Everything adds up: desktop phones can sit unused if an employee is remote or travels often. The cost of international calls can get sky high. So can data plans for mobile devices. Eliminating these costs produces tangible savings that can be easily quantified.
It is clear why social communication is critical for today's always open, always connected, organization. Communications challenges are no longer just about connecting people for a one-on-one conversation, but rather using the wide variety of social networking and analytics tools to determine the best way to reach a person and ensure faster access to information.
With seamless access to new, social tools that make it even simpler to connect, it is now easier than ever to assemble a group, regardless of location, and make a decision almost immediately with collective thinking minds.
Moving on to Social Business
As we are aware, social or Web 2.0 technologies represents a change in the way we use the Internet as consumers. Customers have high expectations and low tolerance for websites that are not engaging, intuitive, interactive and mobile. Businesses must remain nimble to respond to market conditions quickly to remain competitive. Research of global leaders has found that outperforming companies are almost 4 times more likely to be investing in and encouraging collaboration as compared to their competitors. These companies will activate networks of people that apply content and expertise to improve and accelerate how work gets done, delivering unprecedented return for the time invested.
The ways individuals and communities interact, form relationships, make decisions, accomplish work, and purchase goods are changing the way business is done. A social business embraces and cultivates a spirit of collaboration and community – internally and externally – delivering unprecedented returns for the time invested. A social business recognizes that people do business with people and optimizes how people interact to accomplish organizational goals:
• Deeply connecting individuals in productive, efficient ways• Providing line of sight across traditional boundaries and better aligning actions to needs
• Speeding up business with insight to anticipate and address evolving opportunities
• Unlock new opportunities to rethink business processes
Overall, organizations that realize the value of Social Communications as they evolve into a Social Business will outperform their peers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Himanshu Goyal is responsible for Social Business Evangelization and Sales for IBM Collaboration Solutions at IBM India/South Asia
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