If it seems like the hallowed halls at your workplace are quieter and emptier than ever before, it’s because they probably are. As more and more employees telecommute and spread out over the globe, keeping employees in the loop and part of the company culture can be a challenge.
Why do you need social business software? To tap the “Wisdom of Crowds,” in the words of author James Surowiecki. Business social software, a catchall term for intranet versions similar to Facebook, is the new must-have, like email was a decade ago. It’s the social network that’s OK to use at the office.
At IBM, its BluePages, an internal directory, has been active for about 15 years. Businesses with fewer than 150 employees can benefit from using products like BluePages, says Chris Crummey, IBM’s lead social evangelist.
Not every business is on board with social business software yet, but there are some new tools for enterprises that might just fit the bill. Yammer is one of the newer social collaboration tools for businesses.
With Yammer, you can share ideas, upload documents, collaborate on projects, ask questions, find expertise, recognize co-workers, and solicit feedback from everyone in your company. Updates from co-workers, projects, teams, and even other enterprise applications come in real time across your devices so you always know what’s going on.
Yammer also lets you create separate networks to talk to external groups like customers, partners or vendors. It has a user interface similar to Facebook and both a downloadable desktop app as well as a mobile app.
At Wells Fargo it’s helped break down hierarchical, organizational and geographic boundaries so that everyone’s ideas are heard, and it’s helped to eliminate duplicate efforts because people are talking to each other all the time, says Nathan Bricklin, senior vice president of social strategy for wholesale banking, as reported by mashable.com. Not all employees at the company use it, but they still check out what’s happening on the company’s internal social network, he says.
So why not just use email? You could, of course, but off-site employees say they feel more connected using a social business network and feel it’s easier to offer suggestions and join in the conversation. One off-site employer describes it as a “giant instant message group.”
It’s just one more tool in the technology toolkit.