We Collaborate #3 – Social Workers
Future generations of workers will expect business applications to work just like the social media they use every day. This is not just a matter of choice; it’s a question of productivity. Free information flow and peer-to-peer communication has proven its ability to traverse organizational barriers to information sharing and innovation. Consumer-style interfaces fuelled by gamification, in conjunction with the power of the crowd, are no longer a gimmick; it’s an imperative. A new era of social communication with the potential to drive tremendous growth for the business has already begun.

Enterprise social networks such as Yammer, IBM Connections, Jive or Salesforce1 Chatter as well as established global consumerized web and mobile platforms such as Facebook may be nothing new but, a successful corporate social business case study may well be.

The success stories surrounding these types of social solutions may have a viral following as vendors attempt to generate the necessary hype but, is this destined to become a sustainable trend that will ultimately change company and brand communication forever?

Putting Social at the center

We are now at a point where we have to accelerate cultural change through the effective adoption of social technology. The CIO is well-placed to commence this evolution as she not only has the potential to consolidate application and data silos but will also be able to harness the changing expectations of millennials due to her responsibility for future system usability and agility.

Do not transition business processes to the enterprise social network on a ‘like-by-like’ basis, however. Take a step back and, with a clear view of the business outcome in mind, redesign business processes to accommodate social in the center aiming to ensure lasting business benefits.

Social tool excellence within the enterprise revolves around two main pillars: design and openness.

Design is especially important to the new generation of knowledge workers. They have never seen a traditional ERP or CRM interface and it is safe to say they probably don’t want to. Social technology and emerging cloud APIs can bridge the generation gap between corporate IT and collaborative social networks. It  ensures new employees feel more comfortable in their digital workplace. Progressive vendors are starting to merge legacy corporate processes such as absence management into their social product offerings or add gamification techniques into the mix to increase process productivity.

Openness is about ease of access through many-to-many communication across the enterprise. ‘Open Data’ information flows (via services such as SYNAPP) underpin this approach to incrementally drive fast ideation and feedback cycles, based on insights across retention, employee engagement and individual ‘social’ influence scores.

This sharing economy focus also means that we now have powerful opportunities to collaborate with the outside world; be it customers, fans or suppliers – through a ‘facilitated exchange’ approach which can be clearly seen in recent corporate crowdsourcing successes at Lego, Dell and Unilever.

So how to help my business become less anti-social?

Good products and services originate from the sustained internal excellence that employee-based ‘social workers’ strive for every day. By incorporating social moments into an otherwise covert process, enterprises can harness the combined capability of the workforce and its social network of brand evangelists in new and valuable ways.

This does not mean that the race to a socially-powered business is without its hurdles. To accelerate adoption and usage of social tools enterprises should:

(1) Empower ‘socially-aware’ employees to breathe life into the business culture

Allow social tools, processes and collaboration to gradually improve known ‘customer experience hotspots’. Consider a performance management process that focuses more on ‘ideal outcomes’ than fixed target objectives whilst promoting ‘social behaviors’.  

(2) Focus on the benefits of open collaboration rather than the threat to existing culture

CIO’s should be the catalyst to collaboration rather than a barrier.  Social collaboration by definition will span lines of business, systems and IT silos; embrace this approach to ensure the customer remains at the heart of all improvements.

(3) Implement a reverse mentoring process which balances social & corporate benefits 

Operating as a social worker is as alien to parts of the traditional workforce as cost management and governance may be to the average millennial. Implementing reverse mentoring to ensure collaborating at high pace but low risk will be critical.

And bear in mind, with over 80% of modern knowledge work now focused on collaboration and sharing, enterprises may need a workforce of social workers by choice.


Your expert: Christoph Bauer 

Part of Capgemini’s TechnoVision 2015 update series. See the overview here.