By Dan Berthiaume
Attending the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, I find that many of the solutions vendors exhibiting on the show floor are offering variations on one key capability. Namely, the capability to perform advanced communication and analysis with internal corporate social networks.
Social Networking – Not Just For Customers
Social networking platforms designed specifically to connect employees in an organization are nothing new. In recent years, they have evolved to allow virtual teams to conduct project meetings and reviews. More recently, some are starting to allow customer service agents to internally query experts who typically never get involved on the customer-facing end of the business to get resolutions for complex customer issues.
However, internal corporate social networking platforms are now heading in a direction where users will be allowed to place data, documents, exception alerts, and other more advanced information into workflows and communication streams. In addition, there are also plans to create machine-to-machine (M2M) links between these platforms and other corporate systems to turn them into analytical and problem-solving applications.
For example, in a keynote address during the conference, Richard Foo, collaboration director of Nike, Inc., discussed how Nike hopes to link its internal social networking platform, which currently provides more than 33,000 person-to-person connections, to transactional solutions. This would allow events such a large order being suddenly reduced to enter the workstream, allowing the appropriate account manager to immediately become aware of the problem and take steps to resolve it. In addition, these events would be readily available for collaborative analysis to determine if any broader trends are affecting Nike’s business.
Getting Social with BPO Providers
In the BPO realm, it is easy to see how this kind of enterprise social networking could provide tremendous value. First, considering that many BPO services are delivered from remote areas thousands of miles away, creating a dedicated stream for real-time communications between outsourced employees and employees at corporate headquarters could go a long way toward improving communication. It would also provide employees at remote outsourced locations with much faster access to expert advice and answers, as well as help eliminate cultural barriers.
Second, enterprise social networking streams are an easy and fast way to build a repository of BPO best practices. Users can search for conversation threads on specific topics by keyword or subject, so once a problem is resolved via enterprise social networking, that resolution remains immediately availablie.
Finally, senior management can perform metadata analysis of enterprise social networking activity streams to identify larger trends and patterns in what subjects are discussed, what problems arise, what solutions are offered, and how well they work. BPO users are increasingly focusing on social media as a way to improve customer-facing operations, but also should focus on the internal benefits it can also provide.