a woman hard at work
Social collaboration tools really shine when helping improve specific business processes PHOTO: Tran Mau Tri Tam

Social and collaboration tools in the workplace get a chance to shine when put to work to improve specific business processes. 

It's not about transparency for transparency's sake. Or an opportunity for shameless self-promotion. 

And while they do offer some so-called "soft" benefits in terms of creating the digital water cooler, social solutions provide the greatest value when used to find and connect with experts, documents and key information.

It helps employees stay up-to-date on the progress of a given process or project, and to share documents and other content securely with partners, customers or other people external to the organization.

In other words, put your social tools to work for you.

Putting Social Collaboration Solutions to Work

With that in mind, let’s look at a few scenarios where social and collaboration solutions can significantly improve processes:

Sales

When selling complex products or services, one of the biggest opportunities is to get ahead of a customer’s request for proposal, thereby helping to educate and inform a customer about what various options exist before they begin narrowing-in on a specific solution.  

The most effective sales teams use social and collaborative solutions to create private, branded and personalized experiences where sales people can share product brochures, videos, collect and answer questions from prospective customers.  

These private collaboration spaces can significantly improve the customer experience, and also improve the chances of influencing a purchasing decision around a specific set of requirements.

Marketing

Sharing and distributing the latest marketing content, and keeping alignment with the rest of the organization so that they can amplify your message, is key for marketing departments' success.  

Social and collaboration solutions offer an easy and effective way to share content, engage in discussions and continuously enable sales teams to understand and promote key marketing messages and content. Marketing teams can also use social and collaboration solutions internally as a way to recommend and encourage employees to share key social media marketing content — videos, brochures, press releases — on their own personal social media channels, potentially improving the visibility of social media marketing.

Customer Service and Support

Finding experts and establishing quick, easily reusable content is critical to expediting customer support and service requests.  

By establishing internal employee profiles based on both self-described and socially endorsed experience, customer support professionals can more readily search and locate key employees to resolve service requests faster. They can also collect an internal database of frequently asked questions, either through discussion forums or simple rich-text editing tools like wikis and blogs.  

Breaking down company silos and giving customer support professionals quick access to content and experts can go far towards resolving service requests more quickly.

Human Resources

When a new employee joins a company, one of the biggest hurdles is just learning who’s who and what the company policies and procedures are for a given region or department.  

By establishing rich employee profiles with key information — including organizational reporting lines and brief job descriptions — new employees can get to know each other more quickly. And by assigning new hires to key groups where they can find onboarding information and policies, employees can get up-to-speed with less effort.  

Success in onboarding is a significant reason why employees tend to stay in an organization: if an employee feels that the company is supporting them, they will be far more engaged and likely to stay.  

Human resources teams can also use these spaces as part of an employee development program, encouraging senior staff to engage in thought leadership activities including writing blogs, engaging in Q&A discussions and sharing videos that include tips and tricks from senior employees and executives.

Professional Services

Providing customers with quality professional services involves managing client expectations about the progress of a project. Customers need to understand the overall project plan, phases, approach and stay current on what are any active roadblocks or risks.  

By creating a private, shared space between a client and your professional services organization, you can keep your clients informed of all and any project pertinent details, keep them informed of risks and issues, and share and co-edit key project documents such as specifications or statements of work.

Change Management Comes First

These are just a few of the teams and departments that can benefit from social and collaboration solutions.  However, remember that while the benefit is well worth it, rolling out a new process on a social and collaboration solution won’t be easy. The biggest challenge in employing any of these potential use cases is the change management required inside the organization.

To secure success, the most important thing you can do as an individual is to focus on the change management, and not the product or solution you’re using.  Start by mapping out what processes and tools people follow today in your team, and identify key supporters that will need to communicate and enforce the new processes. Ensure that you have the support of key individuals, and that they understand why the new process is beneficial to them and their teams. 

If you start the conversation with key influencers by describing clear business benefits, you’ll be much more likely to build better teams and improve business results with social and collaboration solutions.