A large part of my role at FinancialForce is to explain the many ways cloud platforms help companies achieve their strategic business objectives. Some of these platform capabilities are quickly understood.
Nobody disputes, for instance, that online communities enable better customer relationships. Point and click app development cuts through the IT project backlog. You bet mobile access slashes reaction times on customer issues. But when it comes to social tools in a cloud platform sometimes I see eyes rolling.
Really, Kevin? Do I really need yet another social feed?
I understand the doubt but my answer is:
Well, yes, because it turns out that your business social feed is the most productive feed you have.
Here are my top six reasons why, in a business context, the social layer is transforming the role of social feeds from potentially time-wasting distraction to an invaluable tool driving more effective collaboration, improving process efficiency and raising levels of customer service – be it Chatter, Slack or Yammer.
#1 Breaks down walls between departments
In our personal lives there is a tendency to only follow people with similar opinions and interests. This can work against encouraging diversity and inclusion. In a business context, social tools can have the opposite effect. They encourage cross-departmental collaboration and enable virtual teams to get things done faster and more effectively. Business diversity, pulling together people with different skills, experience and opinions has been shown to lead to better, more informed decision-making.
#2 Drives adoption and reduces training
Today’s increasingly millennial-driven workforce grew up communicating using social feed techniques such as following, liking, @mentions, #hashtags and joining groups. By providing these familiar methods in business systems, new employees can hit the ground running in a manner simply not possible with 'traditional' channels such as email, meeting minutes and shared folders on a company intranet. When day-to-day business processes such as spend approvals and time-off requests are also baked into the social feed, employees can more intuitively use them and the need for upfront training shrinks dramatically.
#3 Conversations in the data improves audit
If the business social feed is embedded in the application data itself, conversations, supporting documents and transactions can all live in one easily accessible place rather than in separate silos. So, six months later when your auditor is wondering why a specific discount was approved, or a support case closed or a credit note was issued, the conversations attached directly to the relevant record will provide instant, reliable answers. That not only raises auditor confidence but also shrinks their fees.
#4 Take action in the feed
In our personal social networks the actions you can take on any news item are quite limited. You might like it, love it, retweet it or maybe share it but that’s about it. In a business context, however, the actions you take can be much more complex. Yes, you might like or share something, but in many business social feeds, actions could include approving, denying or referring transactions to others. By @mentioning someone or a group, you can accelerate the speed of response to a critical issue. Where social platforms provide point and click tools to define your own company specific custom actions, your employees can perform complex tasks without ever having to leave the feed. With full mobile capabilities your businesses can keep moving quickly on whatever device you have at hand and wherever you happen to get the notification.
#5 Creates a living, breathing ‘tribal’ knowledge base
The business social layer provides a company-wide forum to ask questions and equally important see which questions have already been asked and answered. It also captures and reveals the ‘tribal knowledge’ that lies hidden in many organizations. Again, this has hugely positive impact on a new employee’s ability to start contributing quickly. Subject matter experts become accessible to everyone in the organization in a way that more old style e-mail / intranet methods of knowledge management cannot match.
#6 Social APIs embed the business feed in your apps
The ability to embed social directly within apps puts business social feeds into exactly the place they need to be – baked into the tools your employees use everyday. Rather than forcing people to jump to a separate app with a different UI, app builders can put the feed into the business process itself. A great example is one we use here in our financial applications: your finance team is used to working from row and column style grids - something we at FinancialForce call Action Views. The Chatter API allow us to embed the relevant business feeds into those Views so the Finance team can connect with the rest of the business and their customers without having to change their daily workflow.
It’s your most important feed because it’s where work gets done
People complain about drowning daily in personal social feeds, while at the same time complaining about collaboration challenges at work. The antidote, then, seems simple: spend more of that time incorporating social feeds into your daily routine at work. It’s a familiar medium that can save untold hours of tactical work. Putting social into the daily workflow might be the best thing you can do to improve your productivity in your organization.