Sunday, April 29, 2012

Enterprise Social Networks 2012 – Increasing adoption in near future

The success of consumer social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc have forced the businesses to provide enterprise social networking within the organizations as employees are asking for such platforms and if not provided employees are using free social networks which is risky for the businesses as they lack control. Enterprise social networks are social networks deployed internally within the business organizations where access is limited to their employees and limited number of stakeholders like consumers, etc and are tightly controlled through strict policies by company management. Enterprise social networks have seen good adoption since past few years and these networks include Facebook styled profile pages that highlight employee expertise, interest, hobbies, activity streams and updates, blogs, wikis, communities, forums, RSS feeds, bookmarks, video/photo sharing and other tools that help employees within the organization spread across the world to communicate, collaborate and share knowledge and information and break barriers erected in multi national companies. Business to Business and Business to Consumers communities can also be built on the enterprise social networking platforms that allow sharing, collaborating and participate in the business related conversation and projects. Mostly IT and Internet Companies are at the forefront of enterprise social network adoption and traditional companies like manufacturing, etc have yet to adopt these platforms.

Forrester predicts explosive growth for the enterprise social software from 2011 revenues of US$ 600 million to US$ 6.4 billion by 2016 which is a CAGR of 61%. It also predicted that new social enterprise applications that allow systematic grouping of employees, information and processes will deliver good return on investment when compared to previous generation of collaboration apps like email, instant messaging, and videoconferencing that are called Unified Communications & Collaboration.  According to Gartner Research, the worldwide market for enterprise social software will top $769 million in 2011, up 15.7% from the $664 million spent in 2010; $578 million spent in 2009 and predicts revenues will reach US$ 1 billion by 2012. IDC forecasts that enterprise social software market will generate revenues of nearly $2 billion by 2014, which is a CAGR of 38.2% over the 2009-2014 forecast periods. Research firms predict a significant growth in enterprise social network revenues in the near future as more and more business organizations start adopting these platforms internally for their employees. Surveys by Forrester and Altimeter Research have highlighted that despite having attention of the management, adoption is slow but increasing and management’s have yet to be convinced of the potential of enterprise social networks in terms of productivity and profitability.

Similar to email that changed the way employees communicate within the organization; enterprise social networks will change the way employees interact, collaborate, and share information and knowledge that is critical for their performance improvement and organizational profitability. These platforms bring a personal touch to communication, sharing and collaboration process and motivate employees who are geographically dispersed and with different socio-cultural backgrounds by creating a sense of empowerment, also through employee profile pages employees and management can know about the expertise, interests and collaborate in key projects and transfer knowledge and finally play a critical role in organizational innovation and development as employees share their knowledge, best practices, streamline processes by avoiding duplication, wastages and provide ideas for the development of the products and services. This will finally lead to improved products and services, improved communication and collaboration with customers which will help in improving their satisfaction and improved organization reputation and profitability. Engaging employees in the innovation and idea generating process is one of the crucial activities being done by most of the businesses today be it large or small and the enterprise social networks will act as a backbone for such initiatives. Along with enterprise social networks, consumer social networks presence is also critical for the businesses and businesses have to find a way to securely integrate the consumer and enterprise social networks for better results.

Businesses are just looking at enterprise social networking as a collaboration and communication tool for employees but not as a tool that will help in faster decision making, business process improving, employee retention and a tool that help in reducing the email volumes and meetings costs. Businesses too are not convinced about the return on investment or business value that these platforms generate and because of this the spending is very low on these tools, after initial euphoria there has been reduction in focus and there is not serious effort from the management to measure the impact of these platforms. Lack of active participation of the employees and lack of proper training, understanding of the significance of the enterprise social networking in terms of improving their performance, productivity and organizational performance is also slowing down the adoption of enterprise social networks. Some of the businesses are offering gifts and other incentives to encourage employee participation but with limited success. There also need to be an organization policy and guidelines for employees for avoiding the misuse and other problems. Businesses also need champions, responsible for monitoring, controlling and initiating the various activities on the enterprise social networks and champions should be selected from all the levels of organization including the management executives and they should be active.

Enterprise Social Networks is a major trend and the businesses have to change their approach in implementing this platform by looking at it a source of business value creation and formulate policies & strategies for increased participation of employees and use it a transformational tool for overall organization development. They are just looking at it as a mere technology without having any performance metrics for measuring the impact. The constant communication and collaboration will generate knowledge, streamline processes and increase the flow of information across hierarchical levels within the organization. Management can interact with employees at all the levels and the two way communication will be a major advantage for management to understand employee concerns and for employees to understand management plans and strategies. For the success of enterprise social networks, top management and executive sponsorship is a must and their regular participation is also necessary. Like the way consumer social networks changed the way people communicate with family and friends, voice their opinions and share information and knowledge, enterprise social networks too have the potential to change the organization communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing processes by removing  communication barriers between the employees and the management and together work for attaining the organizational goals.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Social Media @ eBay – Intranet Hub for employees

eBay initially rejected its employees request for an enterprise social network and employees were forced to set up their own network on Yammer, a private company that provides the platform for employees of a business to easily setup a free enterprise social network with limited features and functions for that business. The businesses have the option of take over the Yammer network being used by their employees by paying the necessary fees and upgrading their accounts. When eBay management realized that there are significant numbers of employees (around 3,000 employees) are actively engaging on the Yammer network they too considered to take over the network and upgrade by paying the necessary fees but decided not to do so as the Yammer did not have many features and functions that eBay wanted. eBay then decided to develop its own official enterprise social network using NewsGator, an add-on to Microsoft SharePoint and which will be a state of the art platform that will not only accelerate the platform usage by employees but also helps in improving the productivity and performance of the employees. Before finalizing the platform eBay also evaluated other platforms like Jive, Ning, and Chatter but finalized the NewsGator and SharePoint as SharePoint is easy to be integrated with other tools and platforms within the organization IT infrastructure.

With more than 16,000 employees across the globe, eBay created an intranet called the Hub that not only helps employees to perform their jobs in better way but also engages employees with an simple, friendly design and consistent with company identity.  The intranet is also a hub for meetings and company wide events like corporate news, videos, messages, analyst presentations, executive presentations etc and also plays a key role in internal communications with employees that feature blogs, forums, video/photo sharing and discussion boards. Each employee in the company has their own profile page which they can personalize with personal information, upload their photos, engage with other employees who share similar interests and create their own blog and other media. The intranet platform also allows employees to post and receive updates from intranet to multiple internal or external networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc at the push of a button. iChannel is You Tube styled video sharing platform that runs on the eBay intranet and works as a discussion board and communication channel between the employees and management ( Ask a Leader) and recently this channel is used by the CEO to clarify the employee concerns about Skype sale. eBay adopted a test and learn methodology which will help in refining and developing an effective platform that will be easy to use for the employees.

This intranet platform was initially tested with 1000 employees and in November 2011 went live for all the eBay employees. But the intranet is of no use without employees having their profiles uploaded and their active participation and with an aim to encourage the employee participation eBay started a contest called “Hubgrade” that gave eBay employees a chance to win Starbucks gift cards or the grand prize an Xbox. This helped in increasing the employee profiles by more than six times and employees started actively participating in the intranet and build communities, search for information, and even post status updates to the corporate network, LinkedIn, Twitter , etc simultaneously. With rise in participation by the employees’ eBay also launched a innovative mobile application through which the employees can access the intranet Hub away from office which allows to employee directory, meeting schedules, locations and other information access to the information. eBay is using various promotional initiatives like contests, virtual screen savers, training, etc to further increase the employee engagement on the intranet Hub. More active employees with complete profiles will help in the employee’s communication with one another for work, knowledge sharing, common interests/hobbies, collaborate for work and other projects and also improve the overall organizational performance along with their individual performance.

eBay is world’s largest online market place that connects millions of buyers and sellers and company has more than 100million active users globally. Other businesses in the portfolio include PayPal, StubHub, and others where millions of people to buy, sell, and pay online.  The company actively participates on various social networking sites for engaging with their customers and also wanted to provide their employees the similar social networking styled platform internally for increasing employee engagement, collaboration and effectiveness. eBay wanted a platform that will enhance employee performance and also help them in actively improving the organizational performance. Even though the company initially had apprehensions about the effectiveness of the social media styled intranet but the employees convinced the management and started working on the development of the intranet in September 2010. eBay believes that this social intranet initiative will improve collaboration and communication and plays a crucial role in employee retention as the company has to invest significant amounts of time, money and resources in training and inducting employees into the company. The company is hoping to use the social media and networks more effectively for both the employee and organizational benefits. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Social Media Monitoring by Companies is on the rise

With internet penetration level of 30% of Global population, there are more than 2 billion internet users in the world and numbers are growing at a significant pace according to data provided by We are Social January 2012 edition. North America followed by Europe has higher levels of internet penetration. With social network penetration level of 22% of Global population, there are 1.5 billion social network/media users worldwide and North America followed by Europe has higher penetration levels. There has been a significant rise in the number of social media users in the last few years and social media users are actively engaging in various social networks in terms of interacting with friends, playing games, sharing information and one of the most critical activity that they are doing on the social networks is voicing their opinions about the various products and services, customer service feedbacks, Branding and reputation of businesses, complaining and actively participating in social media marketing campaigns by businesses. Businesses across the globe have realized the need to monitor various social networks to know what customers are talking about their businesses and their offerings, whether the feedback is positive or negative, how is it impacting the business and how to tackle negative feedback and comments as they have significant effect on the company and its reputation.

A recent study of global companies by SHARE and GUIDE SHARE EUROPE and sponsored by IBM and Marist College found that only 52.8% of respondents are monitoring open social media networks and only 30% are monitoring their proprietary social networks. However close to 60% of respondents have plans to increase the social media monitoring and will increase social media monitoring and invest in Business Intelligence tools in the next two years which highlights the fact that social media monitoring is an essential part of the strategy for understanding the consumer behavior and needs. Businesses are utilizing social media monitoring according to the survey respondents for tracking metrics related to customer satisfaction (26.8%), Overall Buzz (23.7%), Brand Experience (21%) and Advertising campaign performance (18.1%). Survey respondents also highlighted the fact that more than 25% of them are using social media data in their overall business strategy and close to 29% of them are planning to use the data collected on the various social media networkers further more in their overall strategy formulation. Most of the survey respondents are IT professionals and other management professionals and most of the companies are based out of North America and from Financial Services industry.

Social media networks generate huge data and require specific monitoring and business intelligence tools to analyze the data which includes insights on the consumer behavior, brand reputation, customer experience and advertising campaign performance. Vendors like IBM, SAS, and Google etc provide the social media business intelligence tools that help in analyzing the data. Presently sales & marketing, Public Relations and Customer Service departments with in the organizations are actively utilizing the social media monitoring, and analysis of such data in their operations but the rest of the departments have yet to start utilizing this critical data. There is a realization among the businesses about the criticality of the social media monitoring and are planning to invest resources in the monitoring and analytical tools. There are specific teams working within the organization who monitor various social networks and some businesses outsourced it.