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Change employee workflows with a social collaboration platform

Users and IT admins alike can benefit from social collaboration software that changes how employees communicate, including potentially replacing email.

Social collaboration software can fundamentally change the way employees access information and do their jobs.

Instead of dealing with emails and instant messaging services, collaboration software allows users to work together through social networks. Users can post a question in a blog or wiki, and anyone in the company can offer up an answer. Or they can use cloud storage and sharing services such as Google Drive to post and collaborate on a document. A social collaboration platform provides a single space for employees to share information, work on documents, make suggestions, locate other users, video conference and much more.

Collaboration platforms benefit IT administrators by freeing up money and resources wasted on managing antiquated technologies such as email and even printing. Plus, more employees are starting to use cloud-based services and consumer chat tools in their daily lives, so it's likely they'll want those same capabilities at work.

As a result, it's important for IT admins to understand what social collaboration tools can do. That way they can pick a tool, set policies and expectations, and make sure the platform is secure by restricting the type of files and information users can share outside the organization.

Why do some users hesitate to embrace social collaboration software?

The biggest hurdle facing a social collaboration platform is getting users to actually use it.

The biggest hurdle facing a social collaboration platform is getting users to actually use it. If the tool just creates another login, another window or another step in a process, users won't want to access it. The software has to fit naturally into their existing workflows.

Social collaboration software also has to live up to employees' expectations. Users are on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites all the time, so they have preconceived notions of what a social experience should be. They expect instant messaging and group messaging. They expect it to be intuitive to share files, videos and photos. And most of all, they expect it to be easy to use.

Other factors that can spur user adoption include getting the word out about the software, picking a non-static tool that can scale and giving the software time to take hold.

How can a social collaboration platform change business processes?

On an organizational level, social collaboration tools can break down barriers and change how people interact. People lower on the totem pole, for example, could use it to bypass their boss to get an answer from the exact person they need. Social collaboration lets users easily communicate with people in different areas of the company.

Social collaboration platforms could also mark the end of the email domination era. Email itself probably won't ever go away completely, but it's possible that its functionality will be absorbed into social collaboration software.

Why isn't email enough?

Users simply spend too much time wading through and responding to email messages. And with the rise of mobility, it's not realistic to expect users to read long email threads on their smartphones.

Social collaboration tools rectify email's wrongs with a one-stop shop for comments, feedback and document sharing. Email is also prone to lag time and missed opportunities when certain users are left off a thread. A social collaboration platform cuts down on these flaws because communication is asynchronous and in real time. It is not limited to the list of people users remember to CC. In addition, some social collaboration tools feature open forums where anyone can see a post and contribute to it.

How will social collaboration software benefit IT?

Social collaboration makes the collective knowledge and skills in a company available to everyone. It's great for IT admins because it provides a platform for users to solve basic IT issues on their own by posting a question and getting advice from fellow employees.

Some social collaboration platforms can serve as true help desks, benefiting the entire organization because the software creates a record of how IT made a certain fix. MyIT 2.0, a Facebook-inspired help desk, is a good example. With this tool, IT solves a problem once and users can look up in the platform how to solve the same problem if they run into it again.

With social collaboration software, IT admins aren't stuck managing email and the company Intranet; communications are joined together in one tool. That also makes content archiving and backup easier. Finally, social collaboration can improve admins' relationships with end users because communication is easier and more straightforward.

How can IT ensure that social collaboration software is a good fit?

Social collaboration software for the sake of social collaboration software is a bad idea. IT admins have to know why they are adopting the technology, what they want it to do for the organization and what value users can derive from instant access to specific information. Other considerations include incentivizing social collaboration for users and deciding whether the software will track any metrics on performance or what users are doing with the tool, for example.

Once admins identify what they want from a social collaboration platform and pick the right product, they must educate and train users to show them how it can change the way they work.

This was last published in October 2015

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How do you think social collaboration software could help your organization?
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I think that one important way that social collaboration tools help our organization is that they allow information to be more accessible, which aids in transparency. I saw this when my team moved to using Trello for activity reporting. The increased transparency and social aspects of the tool promoted more open and active collaboration.
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Agreed, mcorum - I think collaboration tools can help surface discussions and pain points that would otherwise be hidden from all members of a team. I like the way I can scan Trello quickly to see what's new, whether it directly impacts me or not.
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In large organizations people are "locked" in their departments and teams. Company-wide social collaboration could help bringing people closer and forming more coherent culture.
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I’ve noticed younger team members work especially well using social collaboration platforms. I recently read that if companies didn’t allow them to use social media and other collaborative tools like they wanted, that millennials were likely to say “fine,” and then turn around and start using the tools on their phones or tablets to get the work done anyway. I know that they have helped my team by introducing a more mobile-oriented attitude, which has helped the team work more efficiently, both in and outside of the office as we’ve moved towards solutions that are more accessible from phones, tablets, and other mobile devices, and not just from the desktop.
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The concept is awesome. The idea is strong. And we all know that email is one of the most distracting pieces of technology in the office. It's also used way to much by people who don't want to face anyone in real time (whether face to face, on phone, or in a live system). So it's a cultural change that we have to address. Also, I've seen organizations try to implement this in selected groups. The issue with this is that the groups that are still using email will continue to berate those that have converted with emails. We also have to consider that a similar process is being used by many organizations with Sharepoint, and there are struggles with SharePoint - people not keeping things up to date, working offline and then uploading later, etc.
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Yes, a very good article stating very good reasons. I'd like to weigh in about security concerns and "approval" culture.
The former might be real. Not all materials need to be put on the cloud.
The latter - I once witnessed a team starting to use Trello despite of the disapproval by the upper cast of architects. Eventually, the tool was blocked using security measures, and people were told to submit requests and wait for approval, before they can pilot any tool.
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Information technology is playing an important role in every area of our life. In industry also it is very much used to process information and to deal with other fellow team members. I am using Slack in my company to talk each other. If we are having question then we can talk easily over there.
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