Thus far, companies have primarily used digital channels like social networks, forums or corporate blogs for external communication. According to a BITKOM survey, only about 17 percent of companies use these media to share information within the company. And only 11% use them for collaboration purposes.
The difficulty lies in the fact that the change often extends beyond the tools themselves. In order to make optimum use of the collaborative possibilities of blogs, wikis and social networks, a transition has to be made toward open, transparent, interactive collaboration. The available options have to be understood and used by the individual employees. After all, information is not only consumed, but actively created, shared and enriched by the users.
The initiative is worth the effort, as the BITKOM study shows. Those who transition into collaborative companies are more innovative, successful and persistent in the market. For example, two teams were compared in an empirical study by Deloitte Australia. One of the teams relied on conventional methods, whereas the other worked with social collaboration tools and achieved significantly better results. In addition to this, the employees in the “social” team showed a higher level of satisfaction and team spirit. Thus collaboration can improve the teamwork of entire organizational units (e.g. subsidiaries, strategic and operative units or management teams) within a company and thus increase the effectiveness of the company as a whole.
Ideally the individual tools are integrated in the Intranet. This type of “social intranet” can be set up similar to Facebook.
- Each employee receives a personal profile, which is used to find experts and thus to establish and maintain one’s own network.
- Employees can describe their current activities in blogs and forums, ask for feedback or advice and share their knowledge with others. Unlike email, the posts are retained and can thus be found at other times, and they serve as a source of information for other employees. So-called wikis fulfil a similar function. Similar to Wikipedia, they provide “knowledge documentation”, which include a high degree of content depth and quality thanks to the collaboration of several people.
- Working groups or communities can form, which bring together employees with matching interests, responsibilities, or overlapping areas of expertise (e.g., purchasing, IT, or project groups). This facilitates exchange, teamwork and communication on the common focus with no entry barriers and hierarchies.
- Using chats, video conferencing and screen sharing, it is possible to engage in real-time communication across temporal, spatial, technical and linguistic boundaries.