UK companies should be embracing social business

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That’s the finding of a new survey by Telligent anyway.  The survey discovered that 74% of UK employees said using an enterprise social network would enable them to work more effectively.  This was despite just 21% of employers actually offering such tools.

There is no such reluctance across the pond.  A recent poll of 700 senior executives in the United States by International Data Corporation found that 67% of US companies have deployed social business software in 2012 compared with just 43% in the same survey in 2011.

Andrew Hayward, Managing Director of software developers m-hance responded to the findings in bullish fashion.

“Enterprise Social Networking technologies are evolving rapidly with analysts such as IDC predicting that the ESN market will grow 43% annually to reach 2.8 billion by 2016. Despite this anticipated growth many UK businesses currently underestimate, or altogether miss, the true potential of ESN technology and the role it can play in boosting employee productivity and efficiency levels.”

The findings chime with feelings emerging from the it@cork Tech Talk event recently.  The event saw executives from the likes of LinkedIn and IBM trumpeting the benefits of using social technologies within the enterprise.

Whilst measuring return on investment remains an issue, especially in the field of collaboration, Hayward is optimistic that metrics can be found, with things like reduction in emails a good example.

“Just as email has replaced the phone for so many business exchanges, ESNs are now poised to become the forefront of corporate communications to drive productivity. By promoting an open communication culture ESNs put an end to confusing closed email entanglements where misunderstandings often occur, potentially reducing time spent on email by up to 30%.”

Hayward adds, “Research has also shown that an ESN can increase employee engagement by on average 2% per user by keeping staff better informed and enabling remote workers to be part of the office ‘community’. Happy employees remain at a business for longer, work harder and are more likely to go the extra mile which ultimately has a positive impact on organisations’ bottom lines.”

Is a reduction in email usage really a good return on investment for social business?  Personally I don’t think so, and as practitioners we need to find metrics that tie into key business objectives much more.  Using email as a measure is too fuzzy for my liking, as there’s no indication that the communication via social networks is more effective than that delivered via email.

It emerged recently that senior executives are increasingly using social media for professional purposes but that they are failing to see how that can be translated into business success.  As an industry and as individuals we need to be looking for better metrics than reduced email usage to show that value.

That employees increasingly want their workplaces to be social is a very positive sign, but to make the industry grow that enthusiasm needs to be channeled in ways that benefit companies financially.

2 thoughts on “UK companies should be embracing social business

  1. A reduction in email alone is not a good measurement of a Social Business. It's more about moving the email from what in essence is a silo, to somewhere that a conversation can occur. By doing this social assets are quickly formed and the conversation can live on throughout various phases of relevancy.

    By moving communication to a more open corporate platform, people are able to gain insights while trying to solve business problems. By what is essentially learning together through conversation, people often become more innovative and are able to not only innovate on product production but also fix internal processes. This often leads to businesses becoming more streamlined and customer focused.

    Social Enterprise Platforms provide for easy ROI as long as the implementation has been aligned with business goals and corporate culture.

    • That's right Vaughan. My issue with measuring email, or indeed things like posts on a discussion forum, is it measures inputs rather than outputs. A car company don't care about how many emails are sent for instance. If social business can be shown to produce more new car features or better customer service, that's a strong metric to measure. Measuring emails is akin to counting how many steps you take rather than the overall journey time.

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