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Discussing enterprise social media strategy at Enterprise Connect 2012

From Enterprise Connect 2012, find out how leading companies developed an enterprise social media strategy.

ORLANDO -- Most enterprises have employees who are accustomed to social media technologies like Facebook and LinkedIn. When an IT organization starts developing an enterprise social media strategy, this employee bias toward such platforms and applications presents a security and management nightmare. During a panel on enterprise social media strategy at Enterprise Connect 2012, IT pros shared their success stories.

"[Employees] want social tools they use in consumer life at work, and IT can't keep saying no," said Blair Pleasant, president and principal analyst of COMMfusion LLC, who moderated the Enterprise Connect 2012 panel on social enterprise case studies. "In the next three years, the number of enterprises using enterprise-grade social media tools to improve business will at least double."

To address security and management concerns, organizations are turning to a maturing group of enterprise-grade social media tools, such as Cisco Quad, IBM Connections and Microsoft SharePoint. Not every social media platform or application will be appropriate for each enterprise, so the company must determine its particular use case.

Combining unified communication and collaboration into a contextual work environment will help an enterprise establish its own enterprise social media strategy. "Unified communications [UC] helps [the user] connect and interact via instant message, voice and video, and the social aspect really helps the user find the exact expertise they are looking for," Pleasant said. "It’s all about find, reach and collaborate. Communicate will be next."

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Management consulting firm A.T. Kearney used its employees’ affinity for services like Facebook and Twitter to develop its enterprise social media strategy, according to global network architect Kevin Rice, panelist at Enterprise Connect 2012. His firm emulated employee social media preferences while implementing Microsoft Lync for unified communications and SharePoint for collaboration. Adoption of the tools has taken off, he said, because the tools appeared similar to what employees were using in their personal lives.

Enterprise Connect 2012 panelist David Nettles, director of IT architecture and compliance for Rayonier, a global forest products company, said he encountered cultural barriers when his company implemented a Siemens Enterprise Communications platform, currently in beta testing. The Siemens technology integrates with Google Apps for unified communications and collaboration capabilities, all with the common Gmail and Google+ interface that employees are accustomed to using as consumers.

The company has been using Google Apps for two years and integrated Siemens 18 months ago, but users were not accustomed to collaboration as part of their workflow. "The way the company evolved was pretty siloed, and some employees were not even given access to the company intranet," Nettles said, adding that many employees were of the mindset that "providing information will only get you in trouble." Nettles noted, too, that the company is working to change employee attitudes and convince them that sharing information is critical.

"We are something of an old-school company, and not everyone is clamoring to do social media, so we are changing the culture of our company," Nettles said. "Different parts of our company need to collaborate, so we looked for natural places to build on collaboration in order to create success stories to share with other employees in different departments."

Virgin Media, a UK-based consumer service provider recently deployed Cisco Quad for UC and collaboration (UCC). The outcome of the pilot testing was "absolutely shocking," said Enterprise Connect 2012 panelist Leon Benjamin, a 2.0 project manager for Virgin Media. Virgin has discovered that a good enterprise social media strategy can reduce the costs associated with face-to-face collaboration.

"The average cost that employees typically spend on their commutes in the UK when commuting from the suburbs to the center of town is 10,000 pounds [approximately $15,971 U.S.] annually. [Virgin Media] spends hundreds of thousands a year to move employees from site to site to do their jobs, and what we were doing was not working," Benjamin said.

Now using Quad for social sharing, the enterprise has realized high levels of employee adoption and cost savings opportunities for both the enterprise and the commuting employee, Benjamin said. "No matter what a company chooses to use for enterprise [unified communications and collaboration], enabling conversations between people previously unknown to each other is powerful."

Developing an enterprise social media strategy: What’s in it for the users?

A.T. Kearney sought to make sure all employees were up to speed with its Microsoft implementation throughout deployment, Rice said. User feedback was crucial during the implementation process. "And the person who complained the most is the person we wanted to impress," he also noted.

Teaching employees how and when to appropriately use social tools can present challenges to the enterprise as it builds its social media strategy.

Rayonier allows employees to learn for themselves how to use its social media technology. The IT organization only intervenes when it identifies a situation where employees should have used the social media application, Nettles said. "Perhaps if we notice someone sending out a mass email to everyone -- including people who really don't need to receive that message."

"But those lines aren't always clear," Virgin Media’s Benjamin said. His company has focused on presenting the business case and benefits that will directly impact the user. "We don't always keep things simple with social media technologies and [users] need be shown what's in it for them."

A.T. Kearney has noticed a spike in enterprise social media use after business hours. "While we aren't seeing a quantifiable benefit, it is an intangible increase in productivity," Rice said.

More appealing to the user is the idea of increased productivity resulting in getting work done in less time. "These tools can make a user's job easier and faster," Rayonier’s Nettles said.

"It's a human value proposition," Benjamin noted. "Via social media, we are putting more hours in your day for you to spend how you like."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer

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