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IDC on Social Collaboration


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Leveraging social technologies and particularly social workflow is a core part of how organizations today can manage the transition to a new way of working or usher in a more holistic cultural change.

Leveraging social technologies and particularly social workflow is a core part of how organizations today can manage the transition to a new way of working or usher in a more holistic cultural change.

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  • 1. I D C A N A L Y S T C O N N E C T I O N Vanessa Thompson Research Manager, Enterprise Social Networks and Collaborative Technologies Social Collaboration in Business November 2013 Leveraging social technologies and particularly social workflow is a core part of how organizations today can manage the transition to a new way of working or usher in a more holistic cultural change. Social workflow enables an employee's relationship with the organization and other employees to transcend traditional relationships inside the company. A focal point of workspace change is the ability to use social business tools to engage end users. Enterprise social networks provide enhanced social collaboration capabilities to users who are either inside or outside an organization's firewall. Historical functionality commonly offered in solutions includes, but is not limited to, activity streams, blogs, communities, discussion forums, and groups (public or private). However, a next-generation solution is emerging that weaves together these historical components with lightweight project management, knowledge management, and personal productivity features into a single experience for an end user. The following questions were posed by Deltek to Vanessa Thompson, research manager for IDC's Enterprise Social Networks and Collaborative Technologies program, on behalf of Deltek's customers. Q. What is "social collaboration," and how does it apply to business environments? A. Today, businesses are under tremendous pressure to find new ways of operating that move away from outdated models and take advantage of new technologies and leverage the skills of an increasingly technology-savvy workforce. Across the business, connectivity and the social Web are creating opportunities to apply new technologies and techniques to operations that have the potential to drastically change business, leading to a more social business. Social collaboration has emerged as a way to meet these opportunities and connect people to people and people to information so that they can make more informed, collaborative, and near-real-time decisions. The current business environment could include email, instant messaging and presence, file-sharing, and team collaboration tools that have team sites or workspaces and/or an existing unified communication infrastructure. Ultimately, social collaboration will be embedded in enterprise business applications and productivity applications, enabling conversations to be surfaced from where users are doing their work so that problems can be resolved and the collective wisdom of a group or team can be unlocked, leading to better group decisions that positively impact the business. IDC 1593
  • 2. Q. What is the business value of social collaboration? A. People need to be able to communicate in real time and in context and intelligently filter information. They need to have all the available information — and context about a situation or issue — to make decisions and be able to connect experts around the business. Depending on the size of the organization, these experts might be internal as well as external. Connecting all these users can be time consuming and cumbersome in email or through so-called collaboration sites that require IT involvement to get through a firewall. Social collaboration tools can cut down the time spent trying to connect disparate users and information and ultimately deliver an outcome faster and more efficiently, whether responding to a customer or partner inquiry, responding quickly and effectively to a new sales opportunity, working collaboratively to get a company project back on track, connecting with a colleague, or simply finding information that supports a business decision. Another business value outcome of social collaboration is more strategic — structured leadership decisions. The impact of a leader's message instantly becomes decentralized and disseminated across a business when a social collaboration tool can be used as a single point of communication for strategic business messages. Whether a town hall meeting where all employees can participate through feedback and the ability to share their opinion or another communications stream where management is explaining new business projects or programs, communicating uniformly across the business via a single mechanism is critical to ensure that all employees receive the same clear and consistent message. Q. How are companies successfully using social collaboration? A. One real-world example would be around the customer care process. Companies are using social collaboration to track issues and engage technical resources in a dedicated and ongoing manner. The collaboration space then becomes a way to engage in an ongoing conversation about future issues or needs. The social collaboration environment lets these companies share all the important contextual information with customers, partners, and suppliers. At the same time, employees can have private conversations inside this space that customers can't see, so it becomes an internal tool as well to work on the resolutions internally while also keeping the customer updated in a more streamlined manner. All of that is put into the context of a group, and the group is able to quickly ask questions and respond to feedback from clients if they are also part of a collaboration space. Adding conversation and context around each part of the customer care process enables users to interact, comprehend, and respond quicker and reduces response times. Similarly, companies are using social collaboration tools for better project management. Social collaboration provides greater visibility into project status, particularly projects that involve multiple locations and remote workers. Team members use the environment to track both individual and group responsibilities associated with a project, see when changes are made to content, and stay current on how things are going. Some tools also let managers track the assigned tasks, which helps streamline the workflow approval process. These are just a few examples. Social collaboration is also a great fit for other collaborative processes, especially in the front office — collaborating on an RFP response, planning a sales engagement and strategy, and more. 2 ©2013 IDC
  • 3. Q. How are social collaboration solutions augmenting and improving traditional communications apps such as email and content-sharing platforms? A. Email is definitely not going away. It's still a good way to communicate outside a business, but the nature of email and the way we use it have been impacted by the influence of consumer-based social tools and applications such as Twitter and Facebook. With this evolution, email communication has become much more informal. Traditionally, email has had a lot of hierarchy and bureaucracy associated with it, and with today's social influence, shorter messages are much more acceptable and more transactional than formal business letters of the past. While email is not going away, it struggles to provide context to specific situations and is an unwieldy mechanism for solving group problems. Content sharing inside an organization is becoming much more disparate based on how and where users are doing their work. In the past, for large enterprises in particular, it was typical to see a single company content repository. This repository needed to be a very extensive content management source. The workflow would trigger lots of rules around the interface and how you needed to import and extract information from the system. In short, content sharing was a bit centralized and monolithic. Now there are new tools that are more general-purpose content-sharing repositories based on the foundation of a social network to incentivize collaboration from the outset. One of the most compelling aspects of these new apps is that they are available in the cloud and accessible from anywhere and on any device. The only complication is that they are disconnected from other content repositories around the business. However, when these content collaboration tools are built on top of a social network framework, they should be able to provide more of an orchestration role so that users can surface content from within other applications where they are doing their work, meaning that all of these disparate and disconnected content sources will be connected eventually, and social collaboration can be the catalyst for doing this. Q. What should organizations look for in best-of-breed social collaboration solutions? On the user experience side, tools and technologies that support social collaboration have become not only much more sophisticated but also more simplistic from a design standpoint. Unlike other enterprise applications that are tied to business-critical processes such as creating an invoice, collaboration solutions are difficult to force upon users — even though the potential benefits are significant for the organization. To attract adoption, social collaboration solutions must be built for the needs of an individual within the organization who is looking to collaborate with colleagues, customers, partners, and suppliers in a streamlined and efficient manner. From an IT perspective, it really depends on the current enterprise application portfolio and supporting IT environment of the organization. If the organization has a very traditional collaboration infrastructure, with a lot of legacy systems, then the approach where a social collaboration tool could act as a window to surface data and information from specific enterprise systems would be the most preferable. However, this requires significant effort on the systems integration and change management side. If the company is more flexible and agile with its application road map, it may have a stronger appetite for social collaboration tools, and the company culture may also be more supportive when the tools are deployed and adopted. ©2013 IDC 3
  • 4. New social collaboration solutions are recognizing these integration challenges and weaving personal productivity, the concept of project teams, and companywide collaboration into one experience for end users. This integration can go so far as architecting the solution so that individual users can create collaboration spaces for groups in their personal lives in the same product they are using within the organization — without their company having access to their personal life interactions. This plays to the emerging trend of workers' desire for worklife integration as opposed to the prior concept of work-life balance. A B O U T T H I S A N A L Y S T Vanessa Thompson is the research manager for IDC's Enterprise Social Networks and Collaborative Technologies program. In this position, she provides a holistic view of traditional and emerging collaboration channels being applied internally and externally to the enterprise. Vanessa has a business process–oriented and end user–focused approach to software research and analysis, and her main areas of focus are collaborative applications, Web 2.0 technologies, enterprise social networks, and unified communications (UC) applications. A B O U T T H I S P U B L I C A T I O N This publication was produced by IDC Custom Solutions. The opinion, analysis, and research results presented herein are drawn from more detailed research and analysis independently conducted and published by IDC, unless specific vendor sponsorship is noted. IDC Custom Solutions makes IDC content available in a wide range of formats for distribution by various companies. A license to distribute IDC content does not imply endorsement of or opinion about the licensee. C O P Y R I G H T A N D R E S T R I C T I O N S Any IDC information or reference to IDC that is to be used in advertising, press releases, or promotional materials requires prior written approval from IDC. For permission requests, contact the Custom Solutions information line at 508-988-7610 or Translation and/or localization of this document requires an additional license from IDC. For more information on IDC, visit For more information on IDC Custom Solutions, visit Global Headquarters: 5 Speen Street Framingham, MA 01701 USA P.508.872.8200 F.508.935.4015 4 ©2013 IDC