Socializing Your Enterprise to Succeed in a Creative Economy

By Andrew Filev , written on August 13, 2012

From The News Desk

What does it mean to socialize the enterprise? Often, the primary focus of this term is the outward-facing social media strategy of the company and/or the social collaboration infrastructure it uses. But in reality, these two aspects are just the tip of the iceberg. A socialized enterprise incorporates the entire stakeholder landscape and platforms for bridging these connections: the consumer-facing social media strategy of the company, collaboration within the organization and the way the company interacts with clients and, no less important, its external partners.

Not long ago big businesses commonly created their own internal systems, so-called intranets, for internal communication and collaboration. In fact, there are still quite a lot of companies that still stick to this traditional scenario. However, it's quite a laborious (and also costly) process that requires tremendous time and effort from the IT department. But perhaps a more serious challenge to the intranet model is the end-user experience. To make the best use of such systems, employees typically require some specialized training. Plus, these closed platforms still don’t allow external collaborators to conveniently plug into the work process. The company intranet is a walled garden that creates a disconnect between those on the inside, and those outside the firewall.

The creative economy, with its fast pace and constant multitasking, has made the shortcomings of traditional systems more painful and obvious. Enterprise social tools, like those that have become second-nature for personal and informal use, offer a lightweight, flexible and agile alternative to traditional collaboration systems. What began with a company or two that dared to make this shift, today has become more ubiquitous, as collaboration tools and social media play an increasingly prominent role in businesses of all sizes. Leading social business software providers, like Salesforce, Jive, Atlassian, Wrike and more, have disrupted the enterprise collaboration space by providing tools that make managing work as smooth and easy as browsing a social network.

In addition to the collaborative benefits, the dramatic increase in the remote and mobile workforce along with the expansion of cloud technologies, have also driven enterprise socialization — and vice versa. As these technologies become more widely available, more companies and their employees benefit from the ability to work from anywhere, anytime. In fact, in a recent survey, 83 percent of workers say they already work remotely from time to time, and the benefits extend beyond freedom and flexibility for the individual. Remote work can significantly improve corporate-wide efficiency by enabling team members to remain engaged in a project even while they’re away on travel, and it can dramatically reduce overhead by reducing the need for office space and other infrastructure.

While some benefits of enterprise socialization are obvious, like affording colleagues more convenient ways to work and instantaneously communicate, share, review, and comment on work in progress from multiple locations, socialization of the enterprise imposes some important changes in the organizational culture and work styles of those who use these new tools. It’s not only about technology but also about people and processes, which is equally important.

So why is socialization a winning scenario for an enterprise to thrive in creative economy?

Socialization Win No. 1: More Connection and Engagement

In the friendly ecosystem of a socialized enterprise, the office boundaries become blurred. Even if colleagues are separated by miles and time zones, they can still collaborate comfortably and productively. In a socialized enterprise, it’s natural to share relevant documents, plans, and platforms and have a constant dialogue throughout the process. Because the work process is connected in one system, it’s quicker to access the information and resources you need to get the job done. This not only facilitates collaboration between existing employees but also makes it easier to get new team members on board. They can plug into the “shared knowledge” and start contributing very quickly. A collaboration system that is easy to learn and quickly adopted yields much quicker and more efficient engagement.

Customers also benefit from the interaction and participation in the socialized enterprise. Involving customers in the process through socialized CRM, for example, ensures accurate delivery on expectations and significantly speeds the feedback cycle. Helping customers understand your plans and progress through open communication using tools baked into their own systems avoids misunderstandings, improves productivity and generally makes for much happier clients.

Socialization Win No. 2: More Innovation

Collaboration is changing the way we do business on a fundamental level. The shift is being driven, in part, by the rise of mobile workforces and technology innovations like cloud-based collaboration tools. But, collaboration is also creating a more socialized workforce, which helps to drive technical innovation forward. A socialized workforce is a smarter workforce, because it leverages the organization’s collective intelligence. In the modern socialized workplace, this ability to tap into the creativity of multiple individuals can extend well beyond the physical office space to include external collaborators, even from around the globe, dramatically expanding the expertise and perspective from which you can draw upon to achieve a competitive advantage.

Making the organizational culture more open within the  socialized enterprise also encourages more open innovation. Why limit innovation to a few dedicated professionals working on a particular project if you can leverage input and valuable feedback from many more individuals at various stages of the innovation process?

Socialization Win No. 3: More Transparency

A socialized enterprise thrives on transparency, by removing information from silos, putting all contributors on equal footing and encouraging a more open organizational culture. New collaboration systems and the more efficient workflow processes they enable bridge the gap between the day-to-day work of creative professionals and decision-makers. This transparent process supports prompt and well-informed decisions to stay ahead of the competition and speed time to market in any industry.

While much of the talk about enterprise socialization focuses on cost efficiency, many companies have discovered that the benefits extend well beyond pure bottom-line cost savings. While there may not exist a line item for these secondary or tertiary benefits, they can certainly be measured in dollars and cents. The incremental savings derived from process efficiency, maintaining happy customers and competitive agility ultimately drive business success in ways that may not be measurable on a budget spreadsheet, but certainly add up to market share, longevity and a reputation for innovation that drives the creative economy forward.

{Image courtesy dgray_xplane]