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A step-by-step guide to getting your business working social

03.11.2014
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“Social” in the enterprise context means connecting people. It means associating work, content, knowledge or data with the person who created it. It means being able to see something that someone has done within a collaboration platform and viewing their profile where you can see what else they’ve done and get an idea of their field of expertise. Getting to know the people that you work with helps you to find right person with the right knowledge for the right job. Working social means that knowledge sharing can become a side-effect of working. Everything created within a social collaboration platform is visible to colleagues who have access, so knowledge is instantly shared and information is immediately communicated.

Social business, on the other hand, refers to the concept of optimising the way an organisation runs in order to benefit its entire ecosystem, from owners to employees to clients. This is done by instilling a culture of collaboration, knowledge sharing and open communication throughout the business. The goal of this is to become more effective as an organisation, help people get their work done, and leverage human capital in order to ultimately become a more successful company.

This is clearly an attractive proposition to many businesses. Back in the summer we wrote about how a predicted 75% of enterprise-level businesses would adopt some kind of social collaboration platform during 2013 in order to help them achieve it. But no matter how easy it may be to adopt a social collaboration platform, social software alone will not make a company more successful. It is a tool designed to make work easier for people, by enabling them to connecting with colleagues and combine productivity with knowledge sharing. However, in order for this to help a company become effective and successful, it is essential that the entire culture of an organisation switches to social.

So, how do you go about getting your business working social? Here are the five key steps you should take:

1. Identify your “social business vision”

First you have to work out exactly what you’re hoping to accomplish. You’re probably intending to making it easier for people to do their work. You might also be planning to be more transparent with your clients or staff. Maybe you’re hoping to tap into the organisation’s human network, encouraging knowledge sharing and breaking down silos. More than likely you’re also hoping that going social will help lower operational costs, either by getting people working more efficiently, inspiring new cost-saving ideas, or speeding up product development processes. Whatever your immediate goals are, it’s important to identify them first before you go ahead with implementing your strategy.

2. Establish how your vision fits with core business values

Next, work out how getting your business to work social will support with the company’s broader values. Identify your key values first. Your business may built around the concepts of openness and integrity. Perhaps your company constantly strives for innovation and being at forefront of its industry. Maybe you want to focus on adaptability and always being flexible to the demands of your customers. No matter what your key values are you should be looking to strengthen your organisation’s reputation based around these values. Communication with your clients is vital to this, and so is building your status as a thought leader in your industry which comes from tapping into your network’s expertise. Working social can help your business to achieve this, but it’s important that you identify exactly how your strategy will support these values.

3. Vision and values help you build your strategy

Design a strategy that will help you reach your social vision and support your core business values. It is vital that you can link a facet of your strategy directly with the impact you would like it to have. For instance, being able to quickly communicate news and respond to feedback instantly across your organisation or your client base will make your company agile and flexible. Enabling employees and clients to communicate directly with one another and with your company promotes an open culture and helps generate a sense of empowerment, ownership and ultimately loyalty from both staff and customers. Tapping into your organisation’s human network through knowledge sharing and expertise location will foster innovation and get the right people on the right tasks, potentially resulting in cost savings and increased strength in the industry. Importantly, remember that your goal throughout is to become a more effective and successful organisation overall; getting your business working social is only the start of this process.

4. Implement your strategy

Choose an enterprise social network that combines with a collaboration platform. This will bring your network of individuals together and centralise your communications into one familiar place. It is this combination that will make knowledge sharing and communication become a natural part of working. By combining social tools with collaboration software, you enable people to create and share knowledge in the same platform at the same time. Depending on the culture of your company it may be difficult to encourage people to use these new tools and adhere to the strategy once it’s in place. It’s essential therefore that companies eliminate barriers to participation by choosing enterprise social software that is intuitive and easy to use. It is vital that everyone within an organisation’s network fully signs on to the strategy to ensure that the full benefits are felt across the business.

5. Evaluate successes and failures, and evolve

You can’t simply expect results immediately once you’ve got your strategy and your enterprise social network in place. You are changing your organisation’s culture, transforming the way people work, and shaping the way your company’s ecosystem operates. Achieving these goals will take time and require trial and error to see what works and what doesn’t for your business. By continually evaluating the effectiveness of the strategy, it is possible to identify where the gaps are, where employees or clients are struggling to adapt, and where inconsistencies lie. It’s essential to build on the positive momentum, evolving the strategy and spotting the ways in which it is directly leading to the achievement of the vision and goals you identified at the start of the process.

A social business strategy will fail unless the culture is right. Without the willingness to share, collaborate and communicate company-wide, a business will struggle to work social. It is vital that leaders take charge and lead by example, encouraging their teams to get on board and overcome any hesitations they may have. Transforming the culture of a company doesn’t happen instantly, so it’s important to persist, ironing out any problems along the way. Eventually, you will see results. Your employees should be happier, your clients should be satisfied, and your business should be more effective.

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Highq Collaborate.

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