While collaborative technologies such as file sharing and videoconferencing are an important foundation for the “anywhere office,” new social work platforms now make it easier for team members to coordinate activities and keep projects moving forward. Social technologies are no longer just for personal use, they’re playing an increasingly important role in the workplace.
With workers accessing information from so many different platforms and locations, an internal online community can be a valuable tool for employees, says Rob Howard, chief technology officer of Zimbra, a messaging and collaboration solution designed for the post-PC era. Social communities are different from social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, because the company manages its own social community and owns it, meaning the company controls permissions, the experience, and the data, he explains.
Like social networks, social communities do provide a social experience for their users, but that experience is targeted towards achieving business objectives that will lead to an increased bottom line for the company. Among the advantages and benefits social communities can provide are sales enablement, enhanced collaboration, corporate communication, efficient training practices, meeting and employee management, increased internal support, and virtual meetings and events.
The first step in going social for SMBs is finding the right software, says Ben Landers, president of Blue Corona, an online marketing and SEO company. “This is not always given adequate thought. Consideration must be given to the business model, organization culture, work product requirements, and work force--whether it’s geographically distributed or all in one office, percentage of time spent in versus out of the office, etc.” he says.
Project management is an important application of most social work platforms, and it is included in a wide array of popular cloud-based solutions, such as Hosted Microsoft Exchange from Comcast Business, Microsoft Office 365, Salesforce Work, Citrix Podio, Zoho, Planbox, and Milestone Planner. One of the most popular programs for SMBs is 37Signal’s Basecamp, which offers to-do lists, Wiki-style Web-based text documents, milestone management, file sharing, time tracking, a messaging system, and many available add-ons.
As companies grow and take on more challenging projects, their needs in this area may also evolve. That’s what happened to Blue Corona, which migrated from Basecamp to Central Desktop’s Social Bridge as the complexity of its projects and the demands of its workforce expanded. “Social Bridge offers the advanced project management features we require, plus it offers additional functionality for the creation and management of our growing company intranet,” Landers explains.
Blue Corona’s intranet provides it with a place to display key metrics and to do daily, weekly, and monthly huddles, no matter where its workforce is located. “We still emphasize face-to-face meetings whenever possible, but we use social work tools like Social Bridge as the best alternative for managing our business in the connected world,” Landers says.
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