A quick exchange of information is a must in internal communications: it is essential to run a business smoothly. One of the simplest ways to pass a message is e-mail. However, everything changes when you get e-mails like that: Please read the attached e-mail about the e-mail I sent yesterday in reference to X. You waste your time on going through your e-mails instead of concentrating on more important tasks. In a broader context, e-mail overload makes internal communications inefficient, and decreases employee productivity. E-mail conversations are not sufficient to handle a continuous flow of information and interact at work smoothly. It requires tools with more communication features. One option is social networking apps and platforms.
The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) has estimated that if social technologies are completely incorporated into a work routine, the productivity of high-skill knowledge workers will increase by 20 to 25%. On average, they spend 28% of their time per week on managing their e-mails and about 20% on looking for some internal information or seeking assistance from their colleagues. The MGI has calculated that when social media are used in internal communications, information search can be reduced by up to 35%. In addition, collaboration both within and outside a company becomes more efficient.
Linda Tucci, Executive Editor at TechTarget, explains how social software should be incorporated into workflow. Firstly, you should understand how work results are achieved. Secondly, you should analyze which parts of the work process should have more social features. Finally, you need to decide whether to use a social network product or platform. In Tucci’s opinion, it is a tough call because of their differences. Platforms have all the necessary features, but need to be customized and constantly supervised to get any tangible results. By contrast, products cannot be easily customized and controlled. In many cases, they are only available in English, and cannot be easily adapted to a non-English work environment. However, all these cons are balanced by their business value: they can deliver quick work results.
Andy Jankowski, Founder of Enterprise Strategies, discusses the value of enterprise social networks (ESNs). In his opinion, one of the main reasons of their appeal to companies is the possibility of having more natural conversations: employees can easily make comments, ask questions or share their experience. He also points out some limitations of e-mail on the coordination of internal communications, which social networks help overcome: “Email overload is a common phenomenon in many corporations, resulting in employees simply not reading all that they receive. […] This creates an environment where employees are often out of the loop because of the emails they have not read.” However, Jankowski does not question the value of corporate e-mail. He believes that it is still the best way to discuss work matters with one person or within a small group, but considers companywide broadcast email as an outdated concept.
Research firm Markets and Markets has estimated that the enterprise social software market is worth about $5 billion. It forecasts that its value could reach over $8 billion by 2019. However, the forecast might not come true if the issue of data security is not resolved. Brian McKenna, Business Applications Editor at ComputerWeekly.com, observes that large business organizations are more conservative than regular consumers in adapting new information technologies. He explains that their cautious attitude is a result of their accountability to shareholders and stakeholders. Catherine Lawson, a BBC reporter, thinks that one of the main concerns about social networking apps is a lack of clarity on where and how corporate data are stored.