From The Editor | September 25, 2012

Does The Word "Social" Scare You? Don't Miss Out On Valuable Collaboration

Sarah Howland Standing

By Sarah Howland, Editor In Chief, Field Technologies magazine

With a reported 950 million+ users on Facebook and more than 500 million on Twitter, the world of social media has become a phenomenon that virtually everyone is familiar with. From a professional standpoint, many companies’ marketing departments choose to leverage these vehicles to increase the awareness of their company and offerings and to communicate with customers. A trend that’s been less explored and discussed, however, is how social can be used within your organization.

Earlier this year, David Yarnold, CEO of cloud software provider ServiceMax, wrote an article for Forbes.com titled “The Social Enterprise Becomes A Reality” (http://onforb.es/Jkf4Rk). Yarnold discusses both the challenges and benefits of the social enterprise movement. As far as challenges go, he cites the reaction many upper management members have of social technology as being “a gimmick or an employee distraction versus a potentially valuable business tool.” Not helping matters, he notes, are the names of such collaboration tools — Yammer, Chatter, and Jive. That said, despite initial skepticism, social technology provides some clear benefits to the enterprise. Yarnold mentions that he himself uses salesforce.com’s Chatter to keep a constant eye on the most important elements of his business. He’s able to watch the flow of productivity in his company, and members of his entire company also leverage the tool to communicate and share knowledge amongst themselves.

The Social Era Could Redefine Your Mobile Strategy
I read another article recently on this topic on Harvard Business Review’s blog titled “Traditional Strategy Is Dead. Welcome To The #SocialEra,” that offered some great food for thought. Author Nilofer Merchant notes that “while in the industrial era, organizations became more powerful by being bigger, in the social era, companies can also be powerful by working with others. While the industrial era was about making a lot of stuff and convincing enough buyers to consume it, the social era is about the power of communities, of collaboration, and cocreation.” The social era recognizes the value of knowledge sharing and distribution. Merchant says, “Powerful organizations look less like an 800-pound gorilla and more like fast, fluid, flexible networks of connected individuals — like, say, a herd of 800 nimble gazelles. Companies cannot survive (let alone prosper) without recognizing that social as a phenomenon can allow us to redefine our organizations to be inherently faster, more fluid, and flexible by its very design.”

Imagine how this would fit into a service operation — at even the most basic level, techs could use social technology to help one another with questions, while at a customer site, sales reps could use social technology to communicate opportunities to service techs en route to a customer site, and management can use the technology to stay up to speed on what’s happening on a real-time basis. This level of collaboration could enable a kind of productivity you’re not experiencing today and has the potential to be used as a tool to get a leg up on the competition. While your competition is still rolling its eyes at the idea of social technology in the enterprise, you can be reaping the benefits.