I was never completely sold on the social enterprise platform idea. The business case for replicating popular social networking functionality in a corporate environment seemed dubious at best. Would there ever be a return on investment?
That was until I actually talk to some users. Admittedly success depends heavily on the implementation strategy, but every company I interviewed claimed measurable gains from these tools in a variety of areas. Here are six ways they derive value from social enterprise applications.

1. Find Experts Faster

One of the most mentioned advantages of these products is the ability to quickly find internal experts. In fact, Jive Software surveys show sales win rates increasing an average of 23 percent, and time to find experts falls 34 percent. This is more than a glorified intranet. Search functions are powered by advanced social intelligence algorithms that allow users to quickly recall experts by subject, experience or geographic relevance.

2. Augment Transparency, Accountability and Communications Efficiency

Also, mentioned repeatedly, users touted the unparalleled level of transparency with socialized business. Conversations aren’t trapped in someone’s inbox, so management has continuous insight into the team’s progress. This prevents work duplication and redundancies because everyone is literally on the same page. In groups for project management, someone can enter the group and immediately have context into the situation just by scanning the discussion thread and checking attached documents — without ever sending an email.

3. Streamline Project Management

Social enterprise networks utilize all kinds of shortcuts to streamline workflow. One software developer told me they used social enterprise network shortcuts to facilitate scrum meetings, a key component of the agile software development methodology. Rather than hold their daily morning standup meetings in person, each member of the 37-person team posts “what I did yesterday,” “what I will do today” and “barriers to moving forward” using the hashtag #scrum. The tag allows users to quickly see what everyone is working on and chime in when appropriate. The poster can also delegate tasks to others with the “@” symbol. With some social collaboration tools, users can also employ shortcuts such as an “!” to pull information into the thread from CRM and other enterprise systems.

4. Better Leverage Information and Insights

The before mentioned social and adaptive intelligence can also suggest articles, files and experts based on the user’s position, connections, group memberships and resources they’ve previously accessed. (Think of Amazon when they say “those who’ve purchased this book also liked this one.”)  Imagine you have 10,000 people in an enterprise. Sales materials, RFPs are constantly flowing through system. Social enterprise apps make the most of this information by channeling it to the right people.

5. Generate More, Better Ideas

These platforms provide several means for employees to contribute ideas–from responding to queries and surveys (crowdsourcing), to posting ideas in a group discussion threads. Users receive gratification when co-workers and leadership “like” their contribution. Then, they are continually rewarded as they watch project teams bring the idea to fruition.

6. Boost Employee Recognition and Engagement

Some executives mentioned using social enterprise apps to pull reports that identify employees with high engagement and positive feedback. The more a user interacts with groups, downloads articles and responds to queries with the same keywords, the more they are distinguished as thought leaders on a subject.
The social collaboration software category is a quickly growing market space with a number of existing players like Jive, Yammer and Chatter, as well as new solutions such as BI360.
Research for this article was provided by Software Advice.

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