Why unified communications should lead to social business

A Frost & Sullivan analyst begins a series of posts about the way collaboration is driving more companies to transform their culture and the technologies they use

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If “Unified Communications” or “UC” was the tagline of choice for the tech industry just a few years ago, the new mantra among vendors and users alike is “Collaboration.” Indeed, many traditional UC technologies—including voice over IP (VoIP), conferencing, presence, chat and social media—are now often called collaboration tools. But is changing the name enough to change the way these applications are used? And is the trend toward collaboration all marketing hype, or can it have real benefits for organizations?

At Frost & Sullivan, we believe that in the near future, the most successful enterprises will be the most collaborative. Even today, our research shows that companies are using social media programs for a variety of goals, including education, fostering team spirit, and driving collaboration.

We also believe that certain technologies can help support the transition to social business. But just as important as the tools themselves are the business and cultural changes that must accompany them. Technology alone cannot transform an organization into a social business unless employees actually use it to collaborate. And that is the hardest change of all.

How to Transform Your Company into a Social Business

Once you have decided to deploy social software, you will have many options for vendors and specific tools. These include complete packages from single vendors, such as IBM’s Connections suite, which comprises everything from micro-blogging to profiles; and standalone applications and services such as Jive, Yammer, and others that mimic one or two elements of “social” as it is commonly used in the consumer space. (Yammer, for instance, is very similar to Facebook; it was recently acquired by Microsoft but remains a standalone product for the foreseeable future.) Frost & Sullivan research shows that many organizations, especially large companies, use internal enterprise social media sites.

But for most organizations, choosing which software to deploy is the easy part. The real challenge comes when it is time to take full advantage of the new technology and actually transform the business from a traditional one—in which employees work in silos, or occasionally with local team members as needed—and into a social one, in which employees routinely collaborate with one another on projects, brainstorm ideas, tag-team for client service and support, and reach out to one another for specific knowledge and skills on a daily basis. Better still, in a truly social business, this collaboration happens on a global level— across business units, geographies, and time zones, allowing all employees to benefit from everyone’s experience, regardless of where they are located or what work they are tasked with at any given time.

To make such a shift, most organizations will need to rethink how they motivate and reward their employees. They will also need to ensure that the roll-out of any new technology is embraced fully by all the employees who should be using it; it is no longer enough to simply give workers the tools you think they need—in a social enterprise, you should be giving them the tools they tell you they want.

Lay the foundation for unified communications and social business by reading ‘Improving Operational Efficiencies Through Managed IP Services.

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