Marry biz processes with 'unstructured' social collaboration

Companies looking to implement "unstructured" social collaboration strategies need to integrate these with the more structured business processes to gain optimal benefits.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Companies planning to introduce social collaboration platforms need to integrate these with existing business processes, or face having another silo adding complexity to their IT systems and not gaining benefits from the deployment.

According to Carlos Mora, collaboration principal for Asia-Pacific at Salesforce.com, people are already doing their jobs in line with standard procedures and processes. They are also increasingly on third-party social networks for work purposes, so the two should be brought together, he said.

"You want collaboration and context, that is, what you see and consume in the news feed has to be intelligent and relevant [for work]…and not something like 'there's free food in the pantry today'," Mora noted in a recent interview with ZDNet Asia.

The structure of business processes and the fluidity of collaboration must gel together within the enterprise social network to reap the benefits.

He added the social collaboration platform needs to be integrated or risk being sidelined by end-users. After all, a siloed social platform means potentially losing out on advantages such as "crowdsourcing" for best ideas and richer, faster engagement with customers, he noted.

There's also "no point" in updating one's enterprise social platform on what he or she plans to do for the day, then having to do the work on a separate application, as this limits the possibility of communicating and collaborating, the executive said.

For example, when a customer phones the contact center with an issue, the customer service agent will raise a ticket and attempt to resolve the case within the first call and without unnecessary delay. However, if the issue is one not encountered before and the agent cannot find the answer on the database, he should be able to post the query on the social network in real-time and get help from the relevant subject matter experts.

"I'm not talking about just four or five individuals, but all those in the [agent's and subject matter experts'] networks. That's the unstructured process. Call center agents couldn't have done this previously," said Mora.

Additionally, the online conversation thread can then be captured and turned into a piece of institutionalized knowledge which other agents can refer to when faced with similar issues in the future, he noted.

Changing corporate mindsets

Mora also pointed out that companies will need to change how they do business internally in order reap the benefits of deploying such social collaboration platforms. The responsibilities for corporate management would include setting guidelines for end users and ensuring buy-in from all in the company, he stated.

Vendors will similarly have to ensure their products are intuitive and easy to use in order for benefits to be gained. "Salesforce's mantra is all software should be as easy to use as Facebook. No one's ever been trained to how to use Facebook," he explained.

They will also have to respond to market trends and enterprise demands. This can be seen with the latest update for Salesforce Chatter, which brought about enhanced mobile features such as support for Android and iOS devices to perform more work tasks while on the move to address the growing mobility and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trends, he added.

Asked if the mobile-centric update was related to Salesforce's moving away from its former "social enterprise" pitch, Mora said many companies have since adopted some form of social strategy, and "the net result of the social revolution is a customer revolution".

"Customers now expect to interact with any brand as easily as connecting with a friend on social media, so companies realize they have to start reimaging how they engage with anyone who touches their brand. The methodology is now everything you do has to be about the customer," he said.

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