Blair Pleasant
Blair Pleasant is President & Principal Analyst of COMMfusion LLC and a co-founder of ucstrategies.com, an industry resource on the...
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Blair Pleasant | January 27, 2013 |


Enterprise Social Software: Hearing from End Users

Enterprise Social Software: Hearing from End Users Case studies in using social with UC to find, reach, and collaborate, which in turn leads to business process improvements.

Case studies in using social with UC to find, reach, and collaborate, which in turn leads to business process improvements.

As consumerization of IT continues its momentum, more and more companies are turning to social software solutions that provide some of the same capabilities and benefits in our business lives as they do in our personal lives. For good reason, many companies discourage their employees from using public social networking sites like Facebook, and instead are turning to enterprise-class services that provide the security needed while meeting business goals. Enterprise social software products available today, including those from IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, Jive, Telligent, and others, make it easier to find experts and resources within the organization. However, just finding these resources isn't enough.

Social software is great for providing the content (information) and connections, or the resources and people with the expertise you need throughout your organization. What's missing is the ability to engage in real-time interactions, including voice. That's where unified communications comes into play. Using social software, you can find the people you need based on expertise, projects they're working on, communities of interest, etc. Add UC to the mix and you can view their presence and availability, and then communicate directly from the social software client via IM, voice (using click to call), or have a web or video conference. When users have an integrated UC/collaboration/social solution, they can access the tools they need from whatever application they're using, without having to switch between them. This makes it easier to find, reach, and collaborate, which in turn leads to business process improvements.

At Enterprise Connect 2012, I moderated a panel on enterprise social media with three end-user customers that have deployed social software solutions integrated with their UC solutions. As early adopters in this area, the panelists shared their experiences with the audience, focusing on best practices and lessons learned.

Kevin Rice, global network architect for management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, described his company's internal Facebook-like tool, Globalink, and its integration with Microsoft Lync. Globalink includes a global contact database that is searchable by office, position, or department, and using Lync, users can click to dial or click to chat from the web, while having the social user interface experience.

Globalink helps the user identify people in the organization, and includes photographs, contact details, activity streams, and more. Consultants can do a skills search to find people that have worked on similar projects or have the expertise needed. They can also get profiles of other consultants in the company, including what languages they speak, their education, professional affiliation, etc. Once they find out who the person is and where they're located, they can use Lync to view that individual's presence status, and can click to connect for a real time interaction.

Another panelist represented UK-based Virgin Media, which was able to save thousands of pounds based on its use of Cisco Quad (now called WebEx Social) to replace some face-to-face interactions, and to let people work remotely while still feeling connected to the organization.

Leon Benjamin, Virgin Media's Enterprise 2.0 Project Manager, told the audience, "No matter what a company chooses to use for enterprise UC and collaboration, enabling conversations between people previously unknown to each other is powerful."

David Nettles, Director IT Architecture and Compliance, Rayonier, who integrated the company's Siemens Enterprise UC solution with Google Apps, told the audience, "These tools can make a user's job easier and faster."

All of the panelists noted that their companies realized increased productivity, while improving worker communication and collaboration. In addition, Virgin Media found significant cost savings. Benjamin told the audience, "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,"

He added that by using social software and UC for social sharing, "The enterprise has realized high levels of employee adoption and cost savings opportunities for both the enterprise and the commuting employee."

At Enterprise Connect 2013, I'll be moderating a similar panel, "Case Studies--Creating the Social Enterprise." If your organization has integrated UC and social software, I invite you to contact me at bpleasant@commfusion.com to participate on the panel and share your experiences. If your organization is still evaluating social solutions for your enterprise, then I recommend you attend this session for the latest real-life updates.

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