If you still believe that social networks at work are a monumental waste of time – heads up! Today, companies are incorporating enterprise social networks as important cornerstones of their collaboration initiatives and are seeing some surprising results. However, if you think that email is “good enough” odds are you are missing out.
As I mentioned in a previous post, collaboration is a messy endeavor. “It’s very difficult to collaborate on email and figure out who the experts are,” said Forrester analyst, Rob Koplowitz, in a Wall Street Journal article last month. I’m sure that most of you can relate. If you’ve ever used email to help coordinate team projects then you’ve witnessed firsthand the convoluted mess that email born collaboration can become. Managing projects with email, they quickly and unintendedly develop into huge, confusing messes. Before you know it, team members are wasting valuable time trying to understand where files are and who’s saying what. Surely there has to be a better way.
The New, Virtual Water Cooler
About a year ago, in May 2011, Dallas-based 7-Eleven deployed the enterprise social network tool, Yammer, to help convenience store operators who work with franchise owners, share their knowledge and learn best practices from each other. “I use the analogy of the virtual water cooler,” says Rob Zell, a leadership-development specialist for the company. “People talk about what’s going on in an informal way and have some formal documentation to keep track of best practices.” Now instead of forcing awkward, confusing collaboration through email, employees using social networks can create groups, allowing them to closely follow topics that are important to them without having to sift through tons of irrelevant information.
This new strategy is having results
Organizations that adopt social networks as part of their collaboration strategy are seeing improved unity, and organization. Brian Frezza, co-founder and chief executive of Silicon Valley-based biotech start-up Emerald Therapeutics, said that before he started using social network software, he spent most of his time in 30-minute meetings with his eight employees. “There was no easy way for people to know what others had accomplished or had placed as their top priorities”, he says. Frezza says he now lives and dies by these enterprise social networks; keeping his Asana window open all day, so he can follow what his team mates are doing and how they are progressing on various projects. “From the management side, it’s staying on track,” he says. “It puts things into coherent threads.”
Enterprise social networks are changing the way organizations work. If you haven’t given them a try, you are missing out on a valuable collaboration tool. This is not to say that these new social media tools and email are mutually exclusive. Email may be outdated, but it’s how the majority work today. The real power comes from harnessing the two as each has their own strengths and weaknesses. So, if you still think that corporate Facebook groups or enterprise social networks are a waste, you’re in for a real surprise.