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As shown by the rise and fall of giants such as Blockbuster and AOL, even the largest organizations can face demise -- and it can happen swiftly. Why do these behemoths of the business world fall from grace? In simple terms, they were unable to keep up with the hyper-connectivity of today’s society.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at Blockbuster: In 1990, the movie and game rental organization filed for an IPO at the height of its popularity. Its success continued through 2004 -- owning a grand total of 9,000 stores. By 2010 Blockbuster was hit with bankruptcy, and in 2013 it closed its remaining stores.

Why? During Blockbuster's reign as movie rental king, online companies such as Netflix and Hulu began to offer customers a faster, simpler way to enjoy their favorite films and TV shows -- all without the potential for late fees. Blockbuster was unable to evolve its business in a timely fashion and this inevitably resulted in its downfall.

Much like Blockbuster, many large organizations operate as if they were still in the Industrial Age, where structure and efficiency were the keys to success. Customer feedback was often sparse and took months to gather, so long-term plans were the only way organizations could continue to move forward. But with the advance in technology, customers expect services and products that cater to their hyper-connected world -- they rely on constant access to up-to-date information to make purchasing decisions. How can companies keep up?

Collecting data about customer needs and purchasing behavior is no longer the end of this process. You may have a multitude of social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp to view customer feedback, but you must focus on how to improve your responsiveness to this feedback.

Bringing Customer and Corporate Engagement Together

The way the world communicates has evolved from written letters to emails, to social media and collaboration applications. The general public craves instantaneous ways to interact with friends and family. Corporate interaction struggles to keep up with these evolutions. Many organizations still require employees to resort to email for collaboration. Or worse, employees adopt a messaging or social collaboration platform that isn’t approved and maintained by the company. The key to success in corporate engagement is to facilitate fast, simple communication to encourage innovation.

McKinsey & Co. (pdf) recently conducted a survey of leading enterprise companies on the use of social networks, and nearly 90 percent reported a measurable business benefit gained from implementing social platforms. In addition to tearing down organizational silos and facilitating communication, businesses were able to able to enjoy the following benefits:

  • Save time, money and effort on change management processes
  • Generate new products with higher likelihood of success upon launch
  • Reduce operational, customer service and training costs
  • Identify new leaders in the company and retain talent to stimulate future growth

Working like a network is one of the only ways to survive as a business today. It is no longer a matter of if you should do it, but when you should do it. Resisting change and slow adoption rates can make you the next Blockbuster.

You and your IT department can take the following three steps to integrate social collaboration platforms into the workplace and ensure they are effective:

1. Gaining Executive Buy-In

Executive buy-in and support is paramount for any successful enterprise initiative. It is critical for key stakeholders to understand the value social technologies can bring to the organization. Three relevant value propositions that you can bring to the attention of the C-Suite include:

Increase employee productivity

Employees can increase their productivity by using social technologies that provide access to information when they are away from their desks, including email, instant messaging, calendar, voice, video and newsfeeds at any time and place. Email is an inevitability of business, so employees must always have access to it as well as social collaboration platforms. Productivity increases because social technologies help shift user behavior toward work tasks by providing instantaneous contact with co-workers, thus fully engaging users and enabling employees to work in an environment that better supports their responsibilities.

Reduce operational, customer service and training costs

Social collaboration provides organizations a readily accessible method of helping customers in a timely fashion without adding the need for a larger staff. When issues in customer service arrives, employees are able to come together quickly to provide a solution. In turn, training costs are cut by facilitating constant interaction with the entire workforce. Keep in mind that although social platforms can also reduce the burden on IT departments, they should provide proper information and self-service support, as well as a clear communication strategy to mitigate the risk of unnecessary support.

Attract and retain talent

Workplaces span a broad range of generations with varying technical capabilities, expectations and work styles. Millennials may rely on social and collaborative technologies as indispensable tools for their work, whereas others may consider these technologies to be no more than a means to improve existing processes. Although neither is a better outlook on technology adoption, both should be considered when choosing the tool best suited for your workforce. Providing the opportunity to use these tools also creates a work environment more employees feel comfortable and confident joining, empowering them to work in a more productive manner that is inclusive to all departments and roles.

2. Map Business Value

Securing stakeholder buy-in is not enough to successfully drive an enterprise wide mobile and social initiative. As we all know, change is often met with resistance.

An effective way for the rest of the organization to embrace social technologies is to map how these technologies can help with their day-to-day work. Beyond sending and receiving emails, consider elevating the use of social technologies to facilitate collaboration for geographically dispersed teams, enhance multichannel communications and provide visibility into business-critical data.

Identify common business scenarios that can provide “quick wins” to your workforce. This way, you can ensure buy-in and the higher likelihood of success for your social collaboration initiative.

3. Facilitate Sustainable Adoption

Being responsive is a large shift for most organizations, and in order to be seen as a success, you must enable sustainable adoption. Now what does this term mean? It is one thing to get your workforce to try a new social collaboration tool. However, if they do not see the benefit of its use, find it difficult to use, or don’t find a way to integrate it into their current processes, employees are highly unlikely to continue using it. Facilitate lasting buy-in from your workforce with the following:

  • New tools should drive excitement among employees
  • Use of these tools should facilitate positive change
  • The workforce should feel empowered to use the tools and assist other in learning them

IT departments should not feel as if they have to create sustainable adoption on their own. Incorporating skills from departments such as corporate communications and human resources can ensure impactful messages and information are disseminated across the entire organization. Finding champions for the technology across multiple departments in your organization can also aid in creating lasting buy-in. These champions not only love what they do, but are also excited to evangelize solutions and help their peers learn how to use them.

Harnessing the Power of Social

Organizations must step out of the Industrial Age and embrace what the Connected Age has to offer. Facilitating a responsive organization through social collaboration can not only affect how people communicate within the organization, but it can enable innovation, productivity and impact your bottom line.

As the needs of your workers, partners and customers continue to change, new enterprise social technologies will allow you to implement innovative ways to keep up with demands to share and collaborate. With the right vision and strategy in place, you can enable a shift that will truly change the way your organization works for the better. Now go forth and work like a network!

Title image by Jeffrey Zeldman (Flickr) via a CC BY 2.0 license