Project Management & Planning Articles

Corporate Social Networks: Hype or Useful Tool?

by Maricel Rivera
Published on 29 May 2014

corporate-social-networkEmployee engagement is a vital aspect of business success. Towers Watson performance gurus wrote in a global workforce study that: "When engagement starts to decline, companies become vulnerable not only to a measurable drop in productivity but also to poorer customer service and greater rates of absenteeism and turnover."

Building an engaged workforce starts with effective communication. That isn't as simple as it sounds, particularly for big companies spanning various geographies and time zones.

One solution that is gaining in popularity is the corporate social network (CSN.) A CSN, sometimes called an enterprise social network , is a collection of secure in-house social networks that allow employees to bond and communicate.

But the million-dollar question is: Does it really work? Or is it just another technological trend that may soon die a natural death?

Leveraging technology for a more productive working experience

Gone are the days when collaboration is made possible only by teams that are physically co-located. As things stand today, distributed teams are growing at a rapid clip. More and more work is being outsourced and done remotely. And, more than ever, businesses rely on round-the-clock information to keep their operations on the BAU (business as usual) map.

How public are you willing to go?

While public social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ are powerful in so many ways, they are difficult to control and far too public for data you'd rather keep in-house. If status updates aren't given much thought, they can potentially tarnish your organization's reputation.

There's an app (and a second one, and a third!) for that

There are disparate tools like Skype for messaging, Dropbox for file sharing, a tool for calendar syncing and another for remote viewing, and yet another for some other functionality your company needs on a daily basis.

These can definitely be leveraged to create a more productive and engaging work experience, but constantly switching from one tool to another to get things done can be a tedious exercise for the user in the long run, if not a drain on the company's resources that can include licensing costs, storage and bandwidth.

Get it and tweak it

And then, there's customization of commercial off-the-shelf solutions like Microsoft SharePoint to suit your company's unique business needs. This business strategy works but comes at a potentially hefty expense in terms of time and coding expertise.

Making the case for corporate social networks

The corporate social network, from its humble beginning as a static intranet that justified its worth only when employee details were needed or HR forms were to be downloaded, has evolved into a social collaboration tool where users are allowed to share ad hoc and unstructured data for faster and easier problem-solving.

With features supporting status updates, profiles, real-time discussion, file and document sharing, centralized calendars, event organizers and contact exchange, the benefits are to be reaped by many. A social collaboration tool:

  • Facilitates communication
  • Increases employee engagement and worker productivity
  • Breaks down silos and improves collaboration
  • Increases the organization's speed and agility in responding to stakeholder requests
  • Enables innovation
  • Promotes transparency and bottom-to-top communication
  • Builds a connected organization with a strong corporate culture
  • Captures customer loyalty
  • Connects geographically dispersed teams anywhere, anytime via various channels - PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones
  • Makes in-house thought leaders and experts easy to locate

As to why a collaborative work environment such as a corporate social network warrants some serious thought, here are figures to consider:

  • As per a Deloitte survey, 83 percent of executives and 84 percent of employees rank having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company's success.
  • According to employee assessment specialist Cognisco, on average, U.S. and U.K. businesses are losing $37 billion (£18.7 billion) every year because their employees do not completely understand their jobs.

  • If an employee removes a small amount of waste from repetitive processes through an idea, that idea can save a business about $1,000 annually. Multiply that by the number of employees with similarly effective ideas-say 100-and you add $100,000 to the bottom line.

  • Across the consumer packaged goods, advanced manufacturing, retail financial and professional services sectors, McKinsey Global Institute reports that social networking technologies could potentially contribute an annual value of between $900 billion and $1.3 trillion.

  • An average of 17 hours of downtime a week is spent by businesses with 100 employees clarifying communication, which translates to an average annual cost of $528,443.

Conclusion

Corporate social networks are fast becoming business staples. But like every other business tool that's out there, CSNs fail to meet expectations largely because organizations do not have clearly defined adoption goals.

If you're on the lookout for a project management software built on top of a reliable corporate social network, consider Comindware Project that comes with a free Comindware Team Network framework.

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