It's not easy to pin down the business benefits of social media and collaboration tools, and the value of such platforms is often determined by how well companies can integrate them with core operations. Many of today's savvy CIOs are testing, and slowly embracing, social media as a mechanism for corporate collaboration, customer service or increased employee engagement.
Additional reasons for CIOs to deploy social collaboration tools include the ability to foster an open corporate culture, distribute information in real time, cut divisional and location-based boundaries among workers, and encourage knowledge sharing, according to Vijay Pullur, CEO of SpotCues, a company that makes a private social networking app for people within specific physical locations or perimeters.
Waste Management uses different social networks for different needs
Gautam Roy, vice president of IT at Waste Management, says he views social media through separate internal and external lenses, to determine where he should make investments. Roy tries to embrace the best-performing attributes of consumer social networks by bringing those characteristics inside the company, to increase productivity, efficiency and improve business processes.
"We built an internal social media management platform and are using that platform to manage our IT operational events," he says. Waste Management's IT staff also scrapped email completely and now uses Twitter to communicate with employees and customers during outages or other time-sensitive issues, according to Roy. Instead of having one-off conversations with clients and starting new service requests, field agents use tools such as Yammer and SharePoint, in addition to Twitter, to access data that provides details and historical context on specific customers, he says.
Waste Management recently signed a contract with Microsoft to make Office 365 available to some of its 45,000 employees, but it also concluded that no single social media platform satisfies every enterprise need, Roy says. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yammer and SharePoint all have important roles to play, and it's increasingly difficult to discern the differences between them. "It's getting blurrier because there is more and more overlap between these tools externally," according to Roy.
The CIO also says businesses need to invest in social platforms that are extensible, so they can develop services and eventually expose them in separate public channels, including Twitter, Periscope, Facebook and Yammer. "Have a common platform and an open API that will help you to build on it," Roy says.
BPD strategically tackles social
Angela Yochem, CIO of logistics and transportation company BDP International, says public social media outlets, as well as social platforms tailored specifically to enterprise, provide clear business value for her company. However, the latter option requires more deliberate planning and consistent company-wide engagement. "Public social media allows us to witness and predict trends, position ourselves to respond well to events, identify new thought leaders in areas of interest, and generally keep a finger on the pulse of our industry, business and society," Yochem says. "It also allows us to influence our industry, raise topics of interest, and contribute to the global conversation in areas about which we care deeply."
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