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Enterprise Social Networks May One Day Replace Email

Corporate communication is ripe for disruption. Thanks in part to social networking and the abundance of new messaging apps, people are expecting more when it comes to communicating with colleagues, friends, and families.
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Corporate communication is ripe for disruption. Thanks in part to social networking and the abundance of new messaging apps, people are expecting more when it comes to communicating with colleagues, friends, and families. Less than 20 years ago, employees still primarily relied upon paper memos and pagers.

With such advances in technology, archaic methods for knowledge management and articulating strategies are set to be replaced. While custom social networks in an enterprise setting will not entirely replace email, they will change how workers collaborate and share ideas.

Early movers such as Salesforce, Microsoft, and VMware have already implemented enterprise social networks in some of the largest organizations in the world. Given the increase in millennial tech-savvy employees in the corporate world, such new communication technology will proliferate in the workplace.

Current Standing of Internal Corporate Social Networks

In its early days of introduction, text messaging was viewed by some as a gimmick for young people. Yet in today's corporate landscape, texting is the preferred communication medium for business people. In a similar way, social networks have garnered appeal from college students and professionals alike.

LinkedIn, one of the largest social media sites in the world, is in fact specifically targeted to professionals. This provides further fodder for the potential success of enterprise social networks. In 2013, "seniors aged 65 and over represented one of the fastest growing age groups to use social media."

At this point, social networks are not just for teenagers. Salesforce Chatter is one of the leading offerings in custom enterprise social networks. Burberry and Virgin Airlines have eagerly introduced their custom offering for usage across the entire hierarchy of their organization.

From in-store associates to the leading creative director, Burberry's custom Chatter setup is a place for employees, managers, and executives to congregate and collaborate. Virgin Airlines also incorporated access for customers to share feedback.

Airline passengers can direct questions to actual managers and employees to address customer service issues, all facilitated through a custom enterprise social network.

How Does It Generate ROI?

The direct return on investment (ROI) from the implementation of an enterprise social network can be a challenge to measure, but it is not impossible. Measuring ROI is made easier by clearly defining goals from the outset of an implementation. Some common primary objectives can be to increase productivity and boost morale.

Facilitating increased interaction and cohesion among co-workers, even with a 36,000-person work force, is becoming more possible with the introduction of an enterprise social network. Microsoft's Yammer is a competitor to Salesforce Chatter.

Nationwide Insurance implemented the social network to successfully remove pain-points from important processes such as finding documents and locating subject matter experts. Greg Moran, senior vice president and chief information officer (CIO) of infrastructure and operations for Nationwide, described Yammer as, "the core of the ecosystem that lets us collaborate."

By integrating Yammer with their existing SharePoint system, they were able to meet their goal of improving knowledge management and collaboration. A major reason for why Yammer and Chatter succeed stems from its software interface that replicates LinkedIn and Facebook.

The software development teams behind Chatter and Yammer emulate to some extent but also allow room for customization. More than 5 billion people use social in today's world, and as millennials continue to populate the workplace, the move toward enterprise social networks will become a natural fit.

But in order to successfully benefit and improve an organization through social, leadership must define a vision and objective.

Enterprise Social Networks, the Next Step in Collaboration

A recent report from Gartner, detailed how "80 percent of social business efforts will not achieve the intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology." Carol Rozwell, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, stated that "There is too much focus on content and technology, and not enough focus on leadership and relationships."

Like any corporate initiative, progressing toward a social business requires significant strategic thinking.

Himanshu Sareen is the Founder and CEO of mobile and web development company Icreon Tech.

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