There’s a school of thought that says the established tools of enterprise communication - telephony, instant messaging, email and video - don’t cut the mustard even when glued together with presence and presented as unified communications and collaboration. What’s needed to make a business really hum along, the argument goes, is enterprise social networking.
This argument is reinforced by a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, published in mid 2012, entitled: ‘The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies’. It looks at how social technologies are being used today in five sectors of the economy and how they are likely to evolve in coming years.
“We identified ten value-creating 'levers’ that can be used across the value chain, from product development through after-sale consumer service.” It says. “Importantly, we find that the use of social technologies to improve communication and collaboration within and across enterprises could contribute two-thirds of the $900 billion $1.3 trillion in value that we estimate can be created across the lour commercial sectors.”
Those are huge numbers, and the report makes clear that extracting those gains won’t be easy. “For social technologies to deliver their potential economic benefit, enterprises must be open to information sharing and create cultures of trust and cooperation. They must also deal with significant risk to confidentiality, intellectual property, and reputation. ... On balance, we believe that the benefits are so compelling that over the coming years business leaders, policy makers and individuals will find ways to meet these challenges.”
The report covers the full gamut of social technologies and explains how these can be used by businesses in their interactions with customers to generate value. However it also says that “social technologies when used within and across enterprises, have the potential to raise the productivity of the high-skill knowledge workers that are critical to performance and growth in the 21st century by 20 to 25 percent,” by turning organisations into “fully networked enterprises - networked in both a technical and in a behavioural sense.”
But this claim comes with a caveat: “Realising such gains will require significant transformations in management practices and organisational behaviour.”
McKinsey gives an example of just how pervasive enterprise social networking can become, Canada’s TD Bank. The bank introduced enterprise social networking in Canada in November 2011 and quickly extended it to the US. According to McKinsey, by mid 2012 the bank’s enterprise social network had more than 4,000 communities and thousands of blogs and wikis. “TD employees use the social network to communicate with team members, share expertise and information, support each other with advice, and collaborate,” it said.
“TD has found internal social networking cuts down on the phone calls, meetings and unwanted e-mail (the endless chains of repetitive information; lengthy dissertations with massive and multiple attachments). More importantly, the social network gives management a new way to supervise and lead. TD senior district leaders, for example, must maintain constant contact with sales and customer service teams-to coach, motivate, and lead.
“Each leader is responsible for ten to 15 branches, and social technology gives them an easy and natural tool for staying in touch, providing recognition and sharing business updates. Previously, such communications had been filtered through the branch managers-by e-mail, in meetings, or during conference calls. Now communications are direct and teams are always up to date, thanks to status updates and bulletin board posts that the entire group can see immediately.”
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