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Forecasts predict that the global enterprise social network market will grow from $4.77 billion in 2014, to $8.14 billion by 2019, representing a compound annual growth rate of 11.3% in this period. According to MarketWatch, the  "market redefines that traditional collaboration suite by bringing in a social angle to it. These solutions are not just confined to traditional email and online meetings but also extend their offerings to social networking functionality such as micro-blogging, wikis, profiles, tagging and feeds.”

So it’s clear that social features on the intranet are something that a lot of organisations are now using to improve how people work. In fact, in a survey carried out by us here at Elcom, 41% of those asked said that social collaboration is the most important area to improve.

Social elements on the intranet are not a new concept, but are beginning to gain a lot more traction as more and more businesses come to appreciate how they can improve collaboration and in turn, productivity and revenue.

Enterprise social network tools include:

  • Collaboration – allows employees to share and distribute information with others including, documents, email, IM, online meetings, video conferencing, webinars, screen sharing and more.
  • Content – documents, video, images can all be shared through the social network.
  • Communication – search engines, bookmarking, news feeds, profiles, commenting, photo-sharing, favourites and ratings.

These are just a few of the functions of an enterprise social network which can be imagined as a corporate version of a consumer social networking platform such as LinkedIn, for example. Just as you can on consumer networks, employees and executives can create profiles and blog so that the organisation has a simple yet effective way of discovering the people within it.

Beyond Simple Sharing

Whilst the intranet has been used for simple sharing for decades, enterprise social networking (ESN) goes beyond this and takes it a step further, especially when it comes to departmental and cross-department sharing. With ESN, employees can quickly and easily identify other workers who have a particular skill, share knowledge and work together on projects.

McKinsey research suggests that there’s potentially twice as much potential value when “using social tools to enhance communication, knowledge sharing and collaboration within and across enterprise.” It’s further suggested that an enterprise that fully implements social technologies has the opportunity to improve the productivity of employees – including highly skilled knowledge workers and managers – by as much as 20-25%.

 McKinsey Global Institute analysis: productivity improvement in various areas

However, the potential value that can be extracted by organisations lies in improving collaboration and communications, McKinsey point out. This can be achieved with social networking; for example, on average an interaction worker spends around 28% of the working week managing email and almost 20% looking for internal information, or tracking down colleagues that they need to help with specific tasks. Yet when social networking is used, “messages become content, [and] a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35% (sic) the time employees spend searching for company information."

Further to this, even more value can be realised through more effective and efficient collaboration within the enterprise and externally, with other businesses.

Giving Employees a Voice

Enterprise social networking also gives workers a voice which they may not have had on the traditional intranet and that’s important as according to Charlene Li, author of the report Making the Business Case for Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) points out, “the No. 1 motivation for people at work is not money; it’s recognition, and recognition is a social act. It’s perfectly suited for enterprise social networks.”

ESN allows employees this voice as it allows them to bridge the gap between themselves and executives and enables better knowledge sharing. It also makes it possible to quickly identify those with individual expertise, avoids duplication and improves best practices within the organisation.

These all affect KPIs within an organisation that relate to almost every business process such as sales, customer management, HR, knowledge management and improved productivity across the board.

Implementing Enterprise Social Networking

As with any business process, it’s of course important to plan the implementation of enterprise social networking capabilities on the intranet. Project leaders should understand how it will impact on business goals and identify key employees who can help to propagate its use throughout the organisation.

Gartner, Inc., has detailed how 80% of social business efforts will not live up to the potential benefits due to poor leadership with too much emphasis being place on technology over people.

"There is too much focus on content and technology, and not enough focus on leadership and relationships,” said Carol Rozwell, vice president and analyst at Gartner.

Whilst content and technology are clearly important, it’s vital that organisations consider people during the planning stage and allow the relationships that social networking can help to strengthen to develop.

For further information, watch our Enterprise Social Networking on-demand webinar, exploring the use of enterprise social networking and its value to organisations, as well as the ESN tools that bring personal productivity behaviours into the workplace.

Enterprise Social Networking Video - Blog Banner Image

Presented by Kevin Oliver, our resident digital business expert, who discusses:

  • Social networking facts & trends
  • How to integrate ESN into your business, risk-free
  • The value of a good ESN tool to your organisation
  • Leveraging the knowledge in your business in a way that everyone is comfortable with
  • Taking collaboration to a new level and increasing productivity

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