When speaking about internal online social communities, it is common to hear people say that they want ‘Facebook inside the firewall’. No they don’t. Facebook is about having fun and connecting with your friends. In business terms, this is called wasting time. If you view your internal community as Facebook behind the firewall, you will have low adoption because management won’t want their employees wasting time on it, and as a result, will not push its adoption. Employees will believe that management thinks they are wasting time if they use it, so they will avoid exploring its use as a potential business tool.
What companies are really after is a social experience much like Facebook, but instead is targeted towards business objectives that will lead to a heftier bottom line for the company. Here are ten use cases commonly seen in successful online communities that have a clear business focus.
1. Sales Enablement
The use case most obviously connected with impacting the financial performance of a company is sales enablement. Companies are creating the ability for sales people to search for, ask questions about, provide feedback on, and request specific pieces of content to support their sales process. During active sales cycles they are also able to share information and collaborate with others in their company on the best ways to close a sale.
Companies engaged in merger and acquisition activities typically need to pull groups of people together from around the company to work on the deal. Private groups can be established that allow only specifically named people to post, access content and participate in the conversations. This helps keep your internal team on the same page throughout the process.
3. Project Collaboration
Some geographically dispersed companies have been able to use groups on their internal community to accelerate the formation of cross-functional teams and reduce the amount of time necessary to complete projects. In addition to projects taking up to 30% less time to complete, companies have been able to increase the quality of their efforts by tapping into the appropriate expertise from around the organization.
4. Innovation and Ideation
As one of the top priorities on the minds of most C-level executives, companies are seeking ways to harness the power of their employees to come up with new ideas and get broad feedback on the popularity and quality of those ideas. Through online communities, they are able to work together to quantify the value and manage the implementation of the best ideas. Not only does the company gain access to a broader pool of ideas, but employee retention can be enhanced by providing recognition for top contributors in the community.
5. Corporate Communication
Companies with internal communities can say goodbye forever to the all-company email. Those types of communication can now take place in the community, where notifications can be sent via email. This reduces the amount of time employees spend searching for that important email they saw come in, but didn’t choose to read at the time. The full history of these important communications is kept in one convenient place in the community for all to access when they need it. Additionally, a blog from the C-Suite can boost awareness of the community, drive adoption and open lines of communication with executives.
6. Corporate Directory
Regardless of the advances in technology, the corporate directory is still an immensely valuable tool inside of companies. With the use of an online community, even greater value can be derived from it. With the inclusion of expertise information on the profile, new employees are able to find the appropriate people to help them with tasks almost as fast as the company veterans. People with shared interest can be readily identified through search enabling, expert discovery and the formation of more inclusive professional networks.
Loading up your community with lots of valuable information and instructional videos can make it a valuable tool for training. Some companies have seen the biggest benefit in the employee onboarding process. One company was able to save millions of dollars by using their community to help new employees get up to speed on HR materials, company policies, company orientation, product knowledge, job specific skills development, and how to operate within the organizational structure. The savings come from accelerating the time when a new employee becomes productive, as well as the reduction in the amount of time existing personnel needed to devote to the process.
8. Meeting Management
Keeping track of recurring meetings, posting agendas, sharing minutes and assigning action items are things commonly done in internal online communities. Through the use of wikis, the management of action items is greatly reduced because everyone has the ability to see the actions, who owns them, when they are due and the current status. The transparency that this provides can be a significant motivator for people to complete their actions without the need to dedicate valuable resources to constantly follow up.
9. Internal Support
One of the dominant use cases for online communities externally is support. This same use case also exists inside most companies. A good example of how a company can meet the needs of their employees (without adding resources) shows up regarding IT support. Companies often standardize their information technology on a particular platform and do not officially support other platforms. Unless expressly forbidden though, employees will bring their own, or otherwise find a way to use, unofficial technology. Many companies allow groups to form and be managed by employees, resulting in crowd-sourced support for those employees.
10. Virtual Meetings and Events
Sometimes you just don’t need to have your employees in the same place at the same time. As a way to boost productivity, some companies have virtual events that encourage everyone to engage in a particular behavior and then share their experiences during a fixed period of time. For example, one software company held a “hack-a-thon” where all of their developers were asked to take a few hours to build something unique and share it with the community. A discussion ensued in the community and the best ideas were passed on to product management for evaluation as potential additions to the product.
There are a number of permutations of the above that are clear business-related objectives that will help your employees do their jobs faster, better or cheaper. The key is finding the ones that make the most sense for your business and sharing those with your employees.
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