The concept of online collaboration and social business is in its infancy. Traditional communication tools and IT systems no longer provide us with the support needed to effectively and productively work and collaborate in teams. In this article I’d like to offer my insights into why businesses need to get social.

Business critical collaborative work is still a challenge

According to BusinessWeek Research Services, 40% of employees’ time is spent sourcing information from the right people. Information gathering is critical to making the right decisions. However, within traditional organisational structures, information is spread across many different places and people, causing delay and frustration when trying to produce good quality work. Having a centralised source of information where information is stored and collated allows employees to seamlessly share knowledge and generates a breeding ground for innovation and improvement.

Collaboration is a critically important factor

Most of us do not communicate enough, and in today’s highly competitive environment, this is a big mistake. The ability to share ideas freely and quickly reap the rewards of feedback is a valuable driving force in any business. Transparent communication and sharing will further create trust within teams. This kind of collaboration aligns thinking, positively encourages employees to be more productive and provides them with an understanding of the larger framework.

Over the past ten years the younger generations have grown up with this kind of sharing. Not only has this produced a boom in both media production and idea exchange, but it has also fundamentally changed the way they solve problems. As a result, communication within traditional organisations is often not aligned with the younger generation, who are naturally inclined to share and collaborate.

Social collaboration tools should be easy to use

To build a truly social business, requires so much more than just implementing a tool but the introduction of an online collaboration tool to your organisation can be a great starting point for becoming social. Leadership is also a crucial factor when establishing new ways of working. Leaders play a critical role in promoting a new company culture, which will benefit everyone involved. These new leaders need to become open, social and transparent to encourage this new way of working.

Features of Social Collaboration tools should aim to balance the needs and desires of everyone within the organisation. They should be designed for simple integration within the work environment, while also helping to manage sophisticated projects. For example, some solutions incorporate features such as the hash tag (#) to signify conversation topics and the At sign (@) to communicate to specific group members with a notification.

Using features like these, that people already use to communicate and collaborate, makes it easier and more likely for employees to engage within the platform. Good solutions also incorporate features such as a Project overview that allow for a clear goal identification strategy to be put in place.

This ensures that everyone knows what their goals are and that progress reports can be produced for management to access each individual project’s progress. When used effectively, these features allow management to set the goals of a project whilst also encouraging employees to creatively bounce ideas with each other and progress in the right direction.

Online collaboration tools are the way forward

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, networked enterprise produces a 30% increase in speed of access to knowledge, a 20% increase in employee satisfaction and a 20% improvement in time to market for products and services. However, social collaboration tools are still not necessarily being correctly implemented within today’s organisations.

It is becoming increasingly evident that to compete in this highly competitive world, adoption is critical. When collaborative software is tailored and used to its full potential, it will invigorate employees, assure management and deliver improved business results.