Enterprise Social Networking Technology Embracing a New Competitive Advantage Strategy. A White Paper

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1 Enterprise Social Networking Technology Embracing a New Competitive Advantage Strategy A White Paper

2 Introduction In these dynamic economic times doing more with less has become the norm. Demanding customers and the proliferation of products and service have driven prices down globally; therefore there is increasing pressure to reduce costs. The current economic climate is both challenging and competitive with much uncertainty. Our global marketplace is in a constant state of change and is more connected than ever before. The playing field is level for many organizations and differentiation is difficult competition becomes more aggressive every day. What does a company have to do in order to improve its competitiveness in this type of environment? Knowledge, data, and analysis of data are all critical for success. Additionally, companies need to embrace cultural competency and be adaptable to rapidly changing circumstances. There s a strong emphasis these days on open communications and transparency as well as having a knowledgeable and empowered talent pool. The bottom line is that businesses of all sizes have to go the extra distance in order to maximize their competitiveness and ultimately their profitability. They need to optimize their business performance at all levels in order to gain competitive advantage, grow their client bases and increase revenues & profitability. Business performance optimization requires making strategic decisions developing long-term strategies to improve productivity, enhance business efficiencies and reduce unnecessary operating costs. Investing in systems, solutions and new technologies can help companies to improve business performance. Technology is rapidly becoming a strategic asset for organizations. Technology has increasingly become part of organizations overall business strategy and should be aligned with strategic business goals and objectives. Technology enables businesses to maximize their employees contributions and ultimately business performance. In fact, analysts at the research firm Forrester expect modest growth in IT investments for 2013 and beyond. These analysts believe emerging technologies with the potential to transform businesses will drive future IT spending. These technologies include: Software as a Service (SaaS), business analytics, and mobile devices.

3 Enterprise Social Networking Technology Enterprise social networking technology is one facet of technology that s gaining a lot of ground in businesses of all sizes. Social media and social networking has become predominant in many of our lives, whether it is Facebook, LinkedIn, Pintrest or Twitter. Organizations are recognizing the power and draw of this type of technology and are now implementing it as a strategy to help maximize their operating potential. So what s driving the use of social technology? According to Forrester Research, the interest in using social technology or platforms for business is driven by capturing and reusing knowledge, maintaining and maximizing human connections across remote workforces, and modernizing systems to meet workforce demands. 1. Capturing and Re-using knowledge - Utilizing social networking technology reduces the overall silo effect that many companies experience. The silo effect can be an enormous hindrance to businesses so breaking down those barriers that impede progress is of great importance. Through social network technology, users can collaborate, share best practices and expertise so that knowledge becomes transparent. Moreover, companies are realizing that informal knowledge and learning interactions are extremely important, and they are compelled to capture it and make it available and useful to their company as a whole. 2. Maintaining and maximizing human connections across remote workforces - Thanks to so many advances in technology, the days of 40+ hours spent in the office are coming to an end. Welcome in the era of the remote workforce. According to the market research firm International Data Corporation, by 2015, the world's mobile worker population will reach 1.3 billion, representing 37.2% of the total workforce. There is a growing need to accommodate this rapidly growing paradigm shift. The greatest challenge of engaging remote workers is providing them with a support network and facilitating communications to remove any unnecessary barriers. 3. Modernizing systems to meet workforce demands - Tech savvy individuals, or the millennial generation, are joining the workforce at rapid rates. Not only do these individuals thrive on social media technology, they demand it.

4 Generally speaking, enterprise social networking technology enables employees to connect, collaborate, and learn from each other, informally and online in a micro blogging format. It s about people and socializing and sharing rather than broadcasting information to the masses. Employees are able to share information as short messages, updates, documents, videos and links with other interested employees. This technology can be found as a cloud-based SaaS solution that is mobile user friendly or can be installed directly on an organization s server. Since an underlying premise of enterprise social networking is informal learning, social networking should be incorporated as part of an overall learning and development strategy. Enterprise social networking provides an efficient way to reap the vast intellectual capital of your workforce and build dialogue-based communications across the business. Traditional features and functionality of enterprise social networking solutions include the following: Integration Enterprise Discussions Knowledge Base Favorites Identification Files and Multimedia Security and Administrative Controls Instant Messaging Expert Exchange Groups Notifications Private Messaging User Profiles Seamlessly integrated with a robust Learning Management System (LMS) to offer comprehensive formal and informal learning opportunities. Users can start a conversation, read posts, and actively collaborate with other users in real-time. Each conversation is archived and is fully searchable in a centralized location. Messages can be tagged to make content organized and easy to find. Files, images and videos and links can be uploaded and shared within user groups or enterprise-wide. Messages can be sent privately and securely within your organization and built-in administrative features to maintain network control. Chat with other users that are online. Users can instantly locate experts within the enterprise by expertise or specialty. Create and join private or public groups and collaborate in teams. Automated notifications can be sent to new members Users can create private one-on-one dialog with other group members. A personal profile is set-up by ach user that designates their specialty, expertise and contact information.

5 Benefits of Implementing an Enterprise Social Network There are a myriad of benefits associated with implementing enterprise social networking technology. 1. Optimizes employee interaction: The use of enterprise social networking technology enhances weak relationships that may exist throughout your organization. People who wouldn t normally speak to one another now have that opportunity to get to know each other. If an organization typically struggles with having successful employee interactions, then enterprise social networking can give employees the opportunity to find common ground, and create personal connections that allow for thriving working environments rather than environments that can be adversarial. 2. Enriches existing business processes and workflows: Social networking can be used to deliver information to employees about improvements needed for operational processes or workflows in a quick and efficient manner. Feedback regarding changes can be immediate. 3. Improves collaboration efforts: Enterprise social networking fosters collaboration across teams, departments, divisions, functions, etc. It can break down the silos or geographic boundaries that traditionally isolate groups of employees. Transparency flourishes and employees can be on the same page. The technology provides a common platform by which multi-disciplinary teams can meet, share ideas and skills, solve problems, and ultimately evolve together. Additionally, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can easily be sourced online to add immediate value to the task at hand. 4. Reduces expenses: Enterprise social networks can reduce the need to have multiple meetings conversations and collaboration can be carried out online in virtual meetings. This can greatly reduce travel and meeting expenses. 5. Reduces traffic: Discussion threads target issues and support problem solving, thus reducing the need and time spent on s. Also, take into account pertinent information being stored in rather than in a centralized area where other employees can access it another benefit of reducing traffic.

6 6. Interact with partners/customers: Information can be shared with business partners and customers. Feedback can be monitored and information such as trend identification can be shared in real-time to help drive business processes and innovation. 7. Improve employee engagement, training, retention: Employees feel more connected and have a greater sense of empowerment and belonging. Better communication means greater business insight for everyone this enhances employee engagement. Enterprise social networking also proves to be successful for on-boarding new employees, enabling them to be brought up to speed more expeditiously. 8. Better knowledge management and improved decision making: Enterprise social networking encourages innovation. Improved information sharing means faster responses to business and customer demands. Additionally, executives are traditionally forced to make decisions for the organization when the information they need to make these decisions lies with employees at varying levels of the organization having access to these employees helps execs make more informed decisions. 9. Overall time savings: When ideas and resources can be pooled rapidly, projects can be completed faster. Less time spent ing or searching for answers from internal experts leads to more employee time being productive. Also, small instances of time savings add up and can have a great impact on the bottom-line.

7 Putting It All Together - The Competitive Advantage Factor Gaining and sustaining competitive advantage depends greatly on corporate strategy and is determined by the competitive dynamics within a company s industry. For example, a company in a service-oriented industry seeks competitive advantage differently than a company in the manufacturing industry; however, the underlying principle is the same to sustain superior and optimized performance in relation to the competition. In other words, a company that outperforms its competitors and creates more economic value for its product or services has a competitive advantage. In support of competitive advantage, business performance can be optimized and value can be added indirectly throughout each stage of a company s value chain. A company s value chain typically consists of: Research & Development, Production, Sales & Marketing, and Customer Service. Implementing an enterprise social network proactively supports optimizing business performance in each of these functional areas. The overall premise of enterprise social networking supports value creation by increasing productivity within an organization; however the chart below provides additional examples of how value can be created by functional area. Value Chain Functional Area User Examples Research & Development Open collaboration empowers R&D employees to be resourceful and innovative Open and rapid communication brings employees up to speed quickly regarding new product developments Information that is typically lost with a departing employee becomes enterprise knowledge and is accessible to all new employees Production Changes to business processes or workflows can be communicated and immediately initiated Capture and share best practices Sales & Marketing Allowing external customers access to the system builds user communities that support: branding initiatives, customer insights, trend identification, focus group research, and generation of customer referrals Open communications across the enterprise supports internal branding at all levels

8 Share sales and marketing tools in a centralized area Immediate access to SMEs during the sales cycle Customer Service Locate SMEs quickly for rapid response to customer inquiries Share information in a centralized location for problem research and resolution General Informal learning opportunities are maximized Removes geographic limitations Less time spent ing or searching for information increases employee productivity time Opens collaboration and reduces the silo effect Success stories can be shared to support employee engagement Immediate cost savings can be realized through virtual engagements rather than live meetings In a publication titled Capturing Business Value with Social Technologies, McKinsey Global Institute performed an in-depth study of four industry sectors and suggested that social platforms can unlock $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in economic surplus value within the four industries and two-thirds of this value creation lies in improving communication and collaboration within and across enterprises. Implementing and adopting an enterprise social network can provide organizations with a unique approach, as part of a corporate strategy, to gain and sustain competitive advantage. Companies willing to embrace this technology can maximize their business value by empowering their employees through communication and collaboration. For additional information regarding enterprise social networks and learning management systems please contact epath Learning, Inc.

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