Effective workplace communication is more than just a topic for an HR memo—it’s the foundation for innovation, collaboration, and all around forward motion for companies in this digital age. Often, organizations embrace social collaboration tools internally as stakeholders work to create a culture ripe for digital transformation success. All that social collaboration is great—necessary, even—but without leveraging the capabilities employees need to perform their work instead of just talking about it, it’s simply not enough. Let’s examine what is enough: An enterprise social network (ESN)—i.e., the operating model for the digitally transformed enterprise.
Today’s Problem: Collaboration Without Connection
As columnist Lee Bryant writes in an intriguing article on PostShift, the top three barriers to digital transformation in large firms are leadership and hierarchy, central departments and bureaucracy, and a top down approach to change. In fact, he writes that they form “the calcified spine of the old operating system that is currently holding so many firms back.”
There’s an image, alright. And based on what we see every day in the trenches with our clients, he’s right.
Collaboration without connection isn’t all that valuable. Think, for instance, of the old enterprise standby, email. If team members are communicating publicly on one platform but more formal information is flowing up and down various inboxes, there’s something missing there.
I’m not saying email has no place or that every workplace conversation should be had in a collaboration platform or by way of direct message. However, if this sort of siloed, and sometimes arduous communication is engrained in the collaborative culture, it’s likely also engrained in the operating model of the business. For instance, it could be indicative of repeated misfires when it comes to making big-picture digital moves like using tech to streamline processes or pushing innovation through the pipeline even when there’s resistance.
There is a potential antidote to operating model ailments caused by digital transformation struggles. Let’s examine how enterprise social networks that lead to better, more productive collaboration can help.
The Answer: Enterprise Social Networks (ESN)
Don’t be fooled by the potentially unfamiliar acronym. If you use an enterprise collaboration platform with robust business and culture building capabilities—Slack, Cisco Spark, Microsoft Teams, etc.—you’re leveraging an ESN. Oh, and by the by, there’s a reason the enterprise collaboration market is predicted to hit $49.5 billion by 2021—enhanced collaboration means a happier workforce, more satisfied customers, and a better bottom line.
ESNs work because they help break down bureaucratic tendencies within an organization, giving teams the freedom to talk and work together in ways that both foster personal connections and professional productivity. Our team, for example, uses Slack on a daily basis, and we also concurrently use the Cisco Spark platform. The video feature in Spark makes it one of our favorite places to have video conference meetings and hold training sessions that can be archived for later use. We’ve likewise experimented with the Microsoft Teams platform with great results, and with the proliferation of Microsoft products throughout the enterprise, the addition of Teams to Microsoft’s suite of products is a smart move.
There’s more: Because ESNs work so well, leveraging them also helps stakeholders point out what isn’t working. Moreover, it gives teams a platform to note those organizational problems and discuss solutions in a way that’s far more efficient—and visible—than a closed email chain between a few select employees.
The connection potential ESN brings to the table is important, but there’s one more benefit we can’t ignore: Adaptability in this digital age. Digital transformation isn’t something an enterprise budgets for and completes in one quarter or even one year. It’s a journey, an ongoing process that starts from the bottom up, considering industry opportunities and challenges as well as the preferences and habits of consumers, both internal and external. And thinking of employees as internal consumers helps when deciding what type of tech to leverage.
In the end, connection makes individuals and entire organizations more efficient, self-aware, and equipped to overcome challenges. As the operating model for the digitally transformed enterprise, the collaborative benefits of an ESN is the way to get there.
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Shelly Kramer is a Principal Analyst and Founding Partner at Futurum Research. A serial entrepreneur with a technology centric focus, she has worked alongside some of the world’s largest brands to embrace disruption and spur innovation, understand and address the realities of the connected customer, and help navigate the process of digital transformation. She brings 20 years' experience as a brand strategist to her work at Futurum, and has deep experience helping global companies with marketing challenges, GTM strategies, messaging development, and driving strategy and digital transformation for B2B brands across multiple verticals. Shelly's coverage areas include Collaboration/CX/SaaS, platforms, ESG, and Cybersecurity, as well as topics and trends related to the Future of Work, the transformation of the workplace and how people and technology are driving that transformation. A transplanted New Yorker, she has learned to love life in the Midwest, and has firsthand experience that some of the most innovative minds and most successful companies in the world also happen to live in “flyover country.”