Thursday, February 07, 2013

Is Social and Mobile Collaboration a Thing for the Enterprise?

This week I have been working with companies in the Benelux on social and mobile strategies.  Today, I met with one CIO who says they have done POCs (proof of concepts) with three different social collaboration platforms, and each time the projects failed to catch on and be used by employees.

I also recently read a ZDNet article that included an interview with Jive's CEO Tony Zingale.  In this article, "Zingale acknowledged that the failure rate on social software that's merely flipped on and expected to work wonders is 'pretty high.'  He adds, 'You have to learn how to be social and collaborate.'"

How does a company learn to be social and collaborate? Is this a technology issue or a change management issue?  We as individuals have jumped into the social and collaboration scene pretty easily.  We use Facebook for ourselves and our soccer clubs.  We tweet and use Dropbox to share all kinds of files, we use email distribution lists to organize school events, and we follow our friends and business contacts on LinkedIn.  The big question, however, is where does a business receive value from incorporating "social collaboration" internally?

My analysis is that business "collaboration" is an absolute requirement.  Mobile communications, smartphones and tablets have brought real-time data and real-time interactions to us all.  We receive real-time news, updates and business intelligence that enables us to make real-time data driven decisions no matter our location.  However,  we don't work in isolation or in a vacuum.  We still often need other people's input, recommendations and feedback.  It is a logical next step to have the capability to collaborate in real-time - to form a real-time and mobile collaboration group that can discuss and debate an issue, make a plan and act via mobile devices.  This capability is just as important when working with family, soccer clubs, friends, employees, customers or partners.  

Today, we all collaborate, it is just done badly.  We schedule 10 individual's entire day around a conference call that is often irrelevant or dominated by only a couple of opinionated people.  A great deal of time is wasted and little collaboration happens.  A better use of time and talent would be to create a collaboration session, and schedule a time period (e.g. 1-3 hours) to collaborate on a topic.  Invitations are sent, and people can share their thoughts and opinions back and forth during the designated collaboration period.  They can collaborate when it is convenient for them.  They can collaborate while listening in on endless conference calls.  They can conduct research and return with a thoughtful opinion.  They can fit their collaboration around customer calls and meetings.

Collaboration is a requirement for business.  The question is simply how to best collaborate, and what platforms and mobile technologies are best suited to help us.  

Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for SMAC, Cognizant
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Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and SMAC analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.