Martin Courtney reveals how both users and CIOs are shaping social business and bring-your-own-device strategies
To date, the use of social media in business has focused primarily on the sales and marketing side. A global survey by office space solutions firm Regus in June 2011 found that 41 per cent of UK firms were using social media to engage with existing and potential customers, with a third spending up to 20 per cent of their entire marketing budget on social media projects.
This year, however, social media is predicted to infiltrate all areas of business as a new generation of workers brought up using social networking sites look to use similar platforms to collaborate and communicate with colleagues and business partners at work. And increasingly senior executives are keen to use internal social media platforms – which usually include blogging tools, wikis, some form of feedback platform and voting mechanisms – to get the most out of their employees and ease collaboration and decision making.
“It [consumerisation of IT] is part of it, but when you talk to business leaders they recognise they are only using 20-30 per cent of their employees’ talent, and they need new ways to get the kind of agility, speed, responsiveness and innovation to exploit those,” Mark McDonald, group vice president and head of research at Gartner told Computing. “What is driving it more is the need for new answers to new questions – how to increase levels of customer engagement, grow the business in a down market and identify the innovation we should be investing in.”
IT leaders are increasingly amenable to the idea of deploying social business tools, according to Ewen Anderson, managing director at consultancy Centralis.
“It [social media] is starting to come in more at the CIO level, who are beginning to challenge the internal pre-conception that it is a waste of everyone’s time,” he says.
“It has been locked out and stamped on in the past, but companies make it an integral part of their marketing strategy and then an integral part of their job. In the public sector, for example, we see CIOs output their work through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.”
Pioneers in the public sector
Some government organisations are indeed leading the way, with the Patient Opinion site being a good example. This is an experience feedback platform for health services used by the NHS and Westminster City Council that harnesses YouTube, Twitter and Facebook to raise awareness of healthcare issues and shape policy.
Elsewhere, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is using social media to support Ideas Street, a pretend stock market for new ideas that employees can back with virtual money. The Civil Service, meanwhile, has developed a social media platform called the Civil Service Live Network, which includes a Civil Wiki, Civil Blog and a twitter-type application called Civil Talk.
Private-sector organisations are not far behind. For example, computer games giant Electronic Arts uses mass collaboration platforms to unify decision makers across 29 different offices.
Another example is international cement manufacturer CEMEX, which in 2010 created an internal social media platform called Shift based on IBM’s Connections platform, but inspired by the interactions and social communications seen in Facebook and Twitter. The aim of Shift was to share knowledge and expertise through wikipages, employee blogs and open discussion forums among employees in 100 different countries.
Elsewhere, Dublin-based chip manufacturer XiLinx says it saw a 25 per cent improvement in engineer productivity when it allowed staff to share and participate in design processes using internal social media platforms.
Meanwhile, a recent eight-year agreement between Tesco and Microsoft will also see the retail giant’s staff use SharePoint, Exchange and Lync to set up a new global collaboration platform, designed to allow employes to find specialist skills and share knowledge.