Social Media Can Play an Important Role in Companies’ Collaborative Working Practices

Gary Barton
Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • In an increasingly global world and amidst a growing demand/need for flexible working patterns, collaboration tools become more important.
  • Companies deploying unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solutions should consider including social media as part of the ‘collaboration’ element.

Yahoo! chief Marissa Mayer has recently announced that the company is to end the practice of ‘remote’ working (i.e., home working) amongst its employees.  However, the Yahoo! chief was quoted as saying, “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.  That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”  This brings in a slightly separate element to the efficiency debate.  This is not suggesting that home workers cannot produce as much ‘work’ as office workers, but that the collaborative creative process is harmed by not having employees grouped together in one location.  However, as flexible working becomes not only more in demand from employees, but also a reality for organisations with multiple offices or those seeking to reduce their office space due to economic pressures, collaboration tools become more important.  The nature of certain jobs (e.g., sales or field operatives) also means that some employees will always be remote workers.

If flexible working is a modern working practice, then that other modern phenomenon, social media, may offer part of the solution.  Social media is not new to business and there is hardly a brand out there without its own Facebook page.  Social media provides a cost-effective marketing route, and it can also offer a route to monitoring the performance of public-facing services.  The quickest way to spot a breakdown in a service is, in many cases, to monitor Twitter; if something does not work, someone will Tweet about it.  If it is a big problem, it will trend pretty quickly.  Marketing and customer service is an important part of using social media, but it is also possible to use it as a business tool for internal collaboration.  A number of telcos have provided platforms which offer examples that end users can seek to emulate in their own business.  For example, Verizon is using as part of its newly (re)launched partner programme, in part because of its CRM strengths and in part because of its social media functionality, which it hopes will improve communication between Verizon and its channels.  BT Tradespace creates a social media platform for businesses.  However, Kcom, amongst others, uses Yammer as an internal discussion tool.  It is used to discuss strategies for addressing potential new customers, new ideas and issues within Kcom itself as a business.  It also provides a link between the senior levels at Kcom and staff who may not normally get the chance to raise issues and ideas with the senior team.  Using social media and Skype does not abrogate the need for a paid-for UC solution.  Sensitive material should never appear on a Yammer page, and solutions such as SharePoint and WebEx allow for a more focussed collaborative working environment as well as a creative platform.  However, companies should also strongly consider a company-wide social media platform as a modern business tool.

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