According to research from McKinsey, companies are improving their mastery of social technologies, using them to enhance operations and exploit new market opportunities. Given the impact and resulting benefits of social tools on business, including increased collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing, it is clear that implementing a social platform into an organisation is essential in order to retain a competitive edge.

Not only are the benefits of social integral to creating and maintaining an open channel of communication across global organisations, it can also ease the transition when businesses merge. A key illustration of this can be seen in how Nokia and Siemens formed their joint venture business, Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), the world’s specialist in mobile broadband.

When NSN combined its 60,000-strong workforce across 150 countries into one organisation, there were naturally differences and variations in corporate culture and philosophy. For example, Nokia had a structure that was fully centralised while Siemens functioned with a decentralised approach in over 150 countries.

As a result, NSN was faced with the challenge of finding the most effective way of increasing communication and collaboration, tapping into the rich expertise within its new workforce, and maximising operational efficiencies and communications while taking into account the IT infrastructures inherited by the new joint venture.

NSN wanted to optimise the newly formed workforce by increasing information sharing through easy-to-use communication tools, but they identified several challenges:

  • Geographical and departmental boundaries: Employees were geographically and departmentally dispersed. Many of them faced the same challenges and required the same kind of information to help them overcome these, but the information wasn’t centralised or easily discoverable.
  • Accelerating innovation: Staff members from different regions were working on projects that were closely related and NSN needed to: help them facilitate collaboration, reduce redundancies, maximise operational efficiencies, and accelerate their innovation processes.
  • Human capital management: The rapid increase in the organisation’s human capital (e.g. from taking over operations from telecom customers) created the need to effectively onboard and train new employees, while engaging the entire workforce and capturing their knowledge for future use. Making the expertise of individuals in all the regions discoverable across the organisation and decreasing response times was an important part of having an efficient and unified organisation.

It became clear to the core management team of the new business that collaboration, unification, and engagement would be key goals from the outset. There was a requirement to find a way to best deploy a single platform that would be more interactive than the traditional Intranet both companies had been using. The solution needed to allow the NSN management team to update employees on key business initiatives and to promote the new company culture without incurring exorbitant new hardware, software, and support costs.

Ensuring the solution was flexible and scalable were other key considerations. NSN wanted to enable workforce knowledge sharing and cross corporate communications with the opportunity to provide feedback and comments on all levels. This was a paradigm shift from a more traditional and formal ‘waterfall model’ where information filtered down from top-level management to the employees.

As with other multi-national organisations of a similar size and complex geographic spread, a major issue when installing a new social business solution is figuring out how to integrate old systems into the new one. Given the prevalence of Microsoft SharePoint within organisations, implementing a social platform that seamlessly integrates with this, saves both time and money.

The familiarity of the interface means that IT teams do not have to start from scratch and can begin the development process immediately. Additionally, a flexible pricing model is crucial for businesses as it can be scaled to meet both their current and future needs according to potential growth.

Implementing a social platform that enables workforce knowledge sharing and bi-directional corporate communications allows businesses to meld together their different approaches. Social profiles can be created to jump-start introductions to aid onboarding, especially beneficial when it comes to the merger of multi-national organisations.

Teams are able to introduce themselves as colleagues to create direct and instantaneous interaction between groups of people thus improving ad hoc learning, information discovery, and collaboration. On top of this, for more informal discussions staff can use microblogs, Q&A, and polls, creating a community environment that engages employees and enables an open channel of communication.

The benefits of having a social platform in place can also be seen department-wide. For example, marketing, sales, customer service, and product managers can have a 360-degree view of each customer through consolidated reporting and a platform through which executives can proactively ask questions and share knowledge with colleagues to make business processes more streamlined and company messaging consistent.

Clearly we can see that enterprise social computing is here to stay and not only this, many businesses, like NSN, are looking at taking this to the next level by integrating social computing into mobile platforms. This will further enable collaboration, allowing employees to make connections anywhere in the world.