When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer acted to rein in the company’s telecommuting policy earlier this year, one consideration cited was the desire to increase the amount of social interaction within the company. The rationale was simple: The personal connections formed from face-to-face meetings, together with increased water cooler and inter-cubicle conversations, are expected to cultivate an environment of spontaneity crucial to innovation.
With this in mind, one may argue that social collaboration tools offer a way to increase communication within organizations in a natural and sustained way by adding a social element into collaboration tools. For small and mid-sized businesses convinced about the utility of social collaboration tools, what are the important tips and pitfalls to take note of?
“One way to ease your small business into using social collaboration tools, and to make sure they get used, is to begin one step at a time,” suggested Ed Abrams, VP of IBM Midmarket Business in an email message. “Rather than implementing a whole new system, perhaps start a wiki for team status updates – this will get your company sharing, and used to the process.”
As with practically all aspects of technology, transitioning an organization through a successful social business transformation is more than implementing a bunch of good tools. According to Abrams, an emphasis should be placed on promoting transparency and trust that includes senior leadership. “Work to encourage a culture of sharing so that employees feel comfortable sharing their sentiment and collaborating across teams and departments.”
There is also no avoiding the fact that not everyone will be comfortable using social tools, or recognize the advantages that such tools offer to the work place. As such, the onus is on the company to educate employees about the new tools and how they can be harnessed to increase efficiency in the workplace. Abrams suggested hosting a workshop to create a community, and then proceed to sharing resources using that community.
Despite the advantages of social collaboration tools in breaking down silos and enabling information sharing, it is prudent to remember that not every employee should necessarily be privy to everything else within the company. The fact that some information may not be shared within the corporate network, or should be kept within specific project teams or company departments, will not change with the new tools.
And security matters within social collaboration, too; confidential information should be placed within the correct location to prevent unauthorized access. My personal opinion is that departmental heads or project managers should be tasked with ensuring the correct security settings are in place. Alternatively, an assistant can handle this if the departmental head or manager already has too much on their hands. On this matter, Abrams suggests using software that allows new members to be quickly added or removed without requiring the assistance of the IT department.
Have you deployed social collaboration tools in your SMB? What are some of the challenges and pitfalls that you encountered?