Why social collaboration is important for your intranet, by Joshua David

“Over the past couple of years intranets have gone through a number of wonderful evolutions – everything from providing on-demand tools to creating more personalized experiences for their employees. And today with the rise of mobile devices and social media, many are looking to intranets for a way to take a more active role in the conversations going on in the company.Joshua David This can be accomplished by integrating social strategies into your existing intranet framework, and promoting social collaboration.

Social collaboration, loosely defined, simply means features, tools or services that provide for peer-to-peer or bottom-up conversations and the ability to create communities with friends or colleagues. There are a number of benefits to allowing social collaboration on your intranet. Here are two examples that have a good business case, and in many situations can provide direct ROI. among your employees.

1. Promoting thought leadership

There are many benefits to thought leadership inside an organization, everything from promoting innovation and empowering your workforce to focusing employees on the most relevant and important information to the company. Traditionally intranets have facilitated these discussions through corporate news stories and executive blogs, but as companies grow and become more diverse the reality is that thought leadership can come from many different places and at all levels in an organization – a reality that is often difficult to manage using traditional channels alone.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to use social tools to expand upon existing communication vehicles, or create entirely new ones, and capture the trends and perspectives of your larger organization.

Some examples include:

  • Providing the ability for employees to comment on news stories and blogs to share their perspective on the topic;
  • Allowing corporate editors or executives to highlight specific employee comments that they felt were particularly insightful and helped to move the conversation forward;
  • Opening up executive or department blogs to guest bloggers and extending authorship throughout the organization;
  • Having weekly chats around a particular topic and allowing employees to contribute to the larger conversation

Techniques like these not only provide a platform for employees to become more involved but also shows that company leadership is listening to what employees are saying. Taken far enough, employees can become experts on the topics that are of most interest to them, and act as ambassadors for your organization spreading their influence and helping to shape the conversation (perhaps getting their own blog on the intranet or offered the chance to write a news story for the company). This can provide a great deal of social incentive to stay focused on what matters most, and strong motivation for employees to stay engaged.

2. Tapping the collective knowledge of the workforce

Many companies today face a host of rules and regulations, or are looking to solve problems that cannot be answered simply by getting your leadership in a room for a couple of hours and having them work though the issues. For these types of complex challenges what is often needed is a sort of “collaborative brainstorm” that involves the entire workforce, and companies are turning to intranets embedded with social tools to enable these kinds of activities combining the best elements of micro-blogs, discussion boards, and voting systems.

Such systems enable problem solving on a massive scale and provide capabilities that would be difficult to bring together in other ways. Capabilities such as:

  • Collecting hundreds (sometimes thousands) of ideas focused on solving a specific problem quickly and easily;
  • Enabling cross-disciplinary conversations between many different employees looking at opposing perspectives and varying context;
  • Sharing ideas with anyone and involving employees who may not initially be part of the discussion;
  • Moderating and selecting ideas based on community and organizational perspectives.

These kinds of tools allow companies to gather, analyze, and implement solutions in a productive and efficient manner. Dell’s IdeaStorm and AEP’s Ideas System.

Here are two examples of this concept, the latter of which found over eight million dollars of savings in a very short period of time and actually had to shut down the program temporarily so that they had time to implement the best of the suggestions before considering more ideas. Over the lifespan of the project, now having run for several years, AEP has quantified over eighteen million dollars in total savings from solutions generated by their Ideas System.

In conclusion
Social collaboration strategies and techniques can bring a great deal of value into any company. They can enhance employee engagement, support knowledge management, and extend your ability to solve complex challenges. Your intranet should be at the center of these conversations, facilitating this collaboration and allowing employees to help shape the culture of your organization.

About the author

Joshua David is an experienced design strategist, creative director and principal level designer focused on human-centered, iterative design methodologies and visual communication. He has over thirteen years of professional experience, and has worked with a variety of teams to develop intranets for over ten years. He can be found online at: joshuadavid.me and on Twitter@joshuadavid.