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Key Factors to Consider when Choosing a Social Intranet Provider

Date Posted: Friday, 14 December 2012 00:42
Posted By: Kerry Butters

Recently we talked about the benefits of using an enterprise-level social intranet, which increases productivity and positivity amongst workers. However, not all service providers are created equally and there are a few things you should consider when thinking of deploying a social intranet across your organization.

Social Intranet considerations

Before adopting social into your business, planning should, of course, play a huge part in the process, just as it would with any other new aspect to your company infrastructure.

Of course, it will depend on the nature of your industry as to what works best for you, but when researching vendors, there are a few features that you should ask the supplier if they can demonstrate, if indeed they supply them.

  1. How open is the distribution model? Can all of the employees in your company access and add to the social intranet? No matter what the position an employee holds, they should be able to contribute so that they have a voice within the company. Social intranets are just that, social, so everyone is going to want to contribute, however little.
  2. Document storage and collaboration: this is a vital part of any social intranet. Workers should be able to access documents and collaborate with colleagues in order to obtain great productivity. Employees will be able to work on projects simultaneously whilst doing away with the need of sending internal mail back and forth etc. This also allows for more streamlined storage as all documents, presentations and such like can be stored in one place, instead of being scattered around various workstations.
  3. Knowledge sharing: this is an essential part of a social intranet whether it be via a forum, knowledge base or wiki. Workers with specialist knowledge can add to wikis or forums and can help to spark discussions on a project that can bring fresh ideas to the table. Likewise, it helps workers find others who have the knowledge that they may need to bring to a project, making for better productivity and more accurate work.
  4. Two-way conversations: just like any other form of social, in order for a social intranet to be successful, it needs to be a two-way form of communication. Of course, this can be done via forums too, but the ability for workers to leave comments and provide feedback can be essential to the success of a project – and of course, further sparks ideas.
  5. Employee profiles: this is one of the more important aspects in order to raise productivity and ensure employees feel valued. The opportunity to get to know others within the company is invaluable and takes away that stuffy corporate feel that many offices have. Just as in consumer social, people who may walk past each other in the same building every day can begin to build a relationship with each other, even if it’s virtual in the beginning.

According to The Social Intranet Report 2012 by Prescient Digital Media, organizations who don’t invest in a social intranet of some description will be losing out on gaining some of the most talented employees around.

This is because some of the younger talent (39% of 18-24 year-olds), who have really ‘grown up’ with social media at their fingertips would not only consider leaving an employee who offers no social interaction, but a further 21% said they would be annoyed by it.

This has driven adoption of the technology of course and the report also states that this is also because it’s cost-effective and highly likely to give good ROI. Whilst 5 or 6 years ago nobody had really heard the term social intranets, they did exist in some form or another; however adoption of social intranet 2.0 has risen dramatically over the last couple of years.

According to the study:

  • 75% of organizations have intranet blogs, whilst 4% have no interest in deploying them
  • 65% have forums and 26% have deployed them across the entirety of their organization, 7% have no interest
  • 63% use instant messaging, with 44% using them across the whole of the enterprise, 16% have no interest in them
  • 61% have intranet wikis, 19% of these use them across the business whilst 12% have no plans to introduce them
  • 60% have user comments but only 32% have them deployed throughout the organization, 8% have no interest
  • A meagre 9% of organizations have a fully featured and functioning social intranet integrating collaboration features.

Whilst the figures seem reasonably high, companies have to ask themselves if they are using social in the right way in the working environment. Since it has been proven that the technology is worth the investment as it ups productivity and makes for happy workers, it would seem that a bigger proportion of employees should be allowed to make use of them.

As for those who don’t intend to use social intranet at all, they may just find themselves left in the dust of their competitors who do recognize its value.

Choosing the right vendor

Before you begin, decide what aspects to having a social intranet will be most valuable to your business and make a list. Research several companies, don’t just jump at the first one; any reputable vendor will be willing to demonstrate their product to you.

Ensure that the vendor is transparent about what they provide and consider pricing options. Some solutions can be costly to implement and firms who have deployed social intranet tools report that they have invested between $10,000 - $50,000 on them. Microsoft’s SharePoint is a popular solution that works well for many organizations but is seen to be one of the most expensive and isn’t without its problems, the main one being the time taken to deploy the solution.

According to analysts at Forrester Research, 57% of customers who deployed SharePoint have had to purchase additional tools to improve its functionality, especially with regard to mobile.

Considering how important mobile computing has become in the workplace, that would seem to be a big deterrent for many folk. However, SharePoint has the advantage of having one of the biggest names in tech attached to it.

Further to this, customizable options are all but absent and branding across a social intranet really should be taken into account, just as it should across the whole of the organizations marketing efforts.

Choosing a vendor isn’t easy and it pays to do plenty of research before making a commitment. Going for a big-name tech company may seem like the best investment, but it should be considered that companies such as these generally have their fingers in a lot of technological pies, whereas a company that specializes in CMS and social intranets may be able to personalize the solution to fit perfectly with your company.

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