2013 could be the year of enterprise social media, but don't take our word for it. According to a survey of your peers, Indian companies are slowly, but surely, beginning to implement enterprise social media solutions. The State of the CIO Survey found that back in 2011, 30 percent of Indian CIOs were not interested in implementing a social media solution. In the 2012 edition of the survey, that number had fallen to 25 percent.
The falling number of IT leaders that are opposed to enterprise social media (ESM) is only one side of the story. According to the survey, the number of Indian CIOs looking to implement such a solution has increased from 15 percent in 2011 to 40 percent in 2012.
So what's behind this uptick in interest?
For one, enterprise social media solutions improve information sharing among employees, thereby quickening decision making, an advantage that cannot be trivialized at a time when, according to 50 percent of CIOs, the business horizon of their organizations has shrunk to below six months. Reaction has never been more critical than it is today.
So is the ability to do more with fewer resources. That's another advantage ESM offers. Because it fosters collaboration, it allows an increase in staff productivity. This is one of the reasons Ramnath Iyer, CTO, CRISIL, is looking to implement ESM in the coming 12 months. "We are trying to use social media collaboration at work, so that people can share what they are working on and also collaborate to solve problems," says Iyer. "(With this solution), we will get employees to interact better with each other, give them more access to common resources on the network, and promote collaboration. We will have an increased exchange of ideas among employees. It will help augment productivity and efficiency."
That's a benefit that Sebastian Joseph, CTO, DDB Mudra Group, can testify to. As a creative agency, DDB Mudra takes it collaboration seriously and begun integrating a Facebook-like, in-house-made, EMS solution in 2010. "The number one benefit I wanted to derive is true collaboration. Ideation is what matters most in our industry. Now an idea can come from anybody--that's the primary objective. Once you get into that then you get all the by-products of collaboration," he says.
An ESM tool also helps with one of the side-effects of doing business in today's flatter world: Geographical dispersion. Take the Adani Group, for instance, which is present in multiple countries. "We need a seamless solution for people to connect to each other," says Paresh Pujara, group CIO, Adani Group, who says he plans to get that done by using Microsoft suites.
Pujara is also looking to integrate a chat functionality which the company uses to collaborate with partners (customers, vendors, banks, etcetera). The chat application, he says, will be part of the overall enterprise solution, enabling a seamless flow of data from the chat engine to the company's ERP system. He foresees that this process automation will reduce the manual challenges that exist today, and will remove delays and other documentation challenges.
Currently this project is in the design phase. "We are at an advanced stage of finalizing the design for the data integration layers. There are minor challenges, but we are confident of handling them," says Pujara.
Making ESM Work
Companies that want the benefits that come with ESM need to be ready to do more than talk. Among other things, an ESM implementation requires serious IT governance policies surrounding security and compliance. Then there's the bar that Facebook's set.
At CRISIL, Iyer realizes how important it is for his ESM tool to keep up with social platforms employees use outside work, if he wants them to use his internal ESM. "The intent is to give an interface like that (of a social media platform like Facebook) and customize that interface for the collaboration requirements that we have," he says. Iyer adds that the biggest challenge he foresees in implementing this solution is not the implementation per se, but in getting employees to accept it.
Joseph's experience confirms Iyer's beliefs. Having implemented an earlier in-house portal and knowledge management system--both of which "failed miserably"--Joseph is fully aware of the importance of getting users to adopt an ESM solution.
"The first and foremost challenge was adoption," says Joseph, recounting how he got the current ESM project off the ground.
Those learnings didn't stop him from further testing how people across different locations could connect with each other. So Joseph, who was based out of Bombay, tested his ESM with his 50-member pilot team based in different parts of the country.
To make sure his ESM tool was accepted by his employees--who are about 28-29 years-old on average--he made sure that it had the same ease of use they experienced with social media platforms like Facebook. He also ensured that the solution was available on the multiple devices that staffers use, irrespective of device type or operating system. The solution also has a single-sign-on facility, and once signed in, an employee can access any of the enterprise applications that are integrated with the ESM solution.
For those who don't buy the enterprise social media pitch, it could be time to re-look their assumptions. There is a growing number of CIOs who believe that enterprise social media could well replace today's clunky communications tools like e-mail. For Joseph that reality isn't too far in the future. Already, he says, his ESM, and social media in general, is being used so extensively, that it's easy to see how it could replace e-mail as the preferred form of communication.
Pujara echoes that sentiment, pointing to the fate of the pager. "It is a matter of time; the current e-mail platform will cease to exist, say within next 10 years, like what happened to the pager Industry a decade ago."
Eric Ernest is correspondent. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org