Social collaboration, a combination of social media, visual collaboration and unified communications, is becoming a significant trend in business today. When used together, these technologies can improve products or processes and ultimately drive true innovation which has a direct impact on a firm’s bottom line. This is the third post in a series discussing the benefits of social collaboration. For part one click here.

Today’s global environment is moving at a faster pace than ever. New products and services are continuously being created and modified to adapt to changing consumer and business needs. As a result, organizations need to find renewed effectiveness and efficiency in their business model; a balance between doing the right things and doing things right.

Many organizations are turning to business partnerships to create new avenues for innovation in a variety of different ways. From new products and services to new processes and procedures that can enhance a firm’s productivity while inspiring ingenuity. Wal-Mart, for example, was a pioneer with supplier collaboration by implementing technology that provided real-time, point of sale information to their suppliers. This not only decreased stock-outs but increased sales and customer satisfaction by ensuring products were always available for purchase. Similarly, Apple has created valuable partnerships with manufacturing companies to produce their products; allowing them to focus on their core competencies of technology design and innovation.

The most successful business partnerships are built on a strong foundation of trust which is established through open and honest communications and face-to-face interaction. Two-way data sharing and peer-to-peer collaboration can provide new insights for partners on how to make their relationship more effective and ultimately improve their bottom line.

Vendors, suppliers, joint ventures and other forms of business partners can not only meet face-to-face through video but collaborate through interactive whiteboards. Additionally social networking helps expand an organization’s network providing access to thought leadership, top talent and other potential business partners.

Geographical diversity presents a major challenge in developing meaningful relationships as most business partners located in different countries, if not continents. However, collaboration technologies are continuously evolving to create an effective means of communication. One of the biggest roadblocks for partner or B2B collaboration has been the disparate nature of networks and network providers.

For many organizations that choose to move their video communication to a dedicated network, there can be a “walled garden” created where they are unable to connect to other systems outside of the network. Service providers have been providing so-called B2B exchanges for many years as a way to combat this. Recent trends towards cloud services and carrier interoperability relationships have helped make this type of collaboration easier to achieve.

This post is part of a series covering the benefits of social collaboration within an organization.

Part One: The Rise of Social Collaboration
Part Two: Unified Communications, Unified People
Part Four: Using Collaboration to Increase Customer Lifetime Value

Social collaboration, a combination of social media, visual collaboration and unified communications, is becoming a significant trend in business today. When used together, these technologies can improve products or processes and ultimately drive true innovation which has a direct impact on a firm’s bottom line. This is the second post in a series discussing the benefits of social collaboration. For part one click here.

Collaboration technologies are continuously evolving and creating new ways for employees to interact with each other; both formally through WebEx and telepresence meetings and informally though IM or video chat. When employees interact with each other, they not only catch up on their personal lives but discuss different ideas or share tips and tricks. This type of social collaboration results in a type of knowledge sharing that can not only increase productivity but increase employee satisfaction.

The most effective organizations have a variety of employees with a wide range of expertise; from marketing and finance to information technology and operations management. Sometimes the best ideas are created through the most informal interactions, when employees are merely catching up with one another. Social collaboration, and the subsequent knowledge sharing, can assist with problem solving or create a more efficient process by simply providing a different point of view.

For example, a few weeks ago I was catching up with one of my colleagues and she began saying how frustrated she was with this new project. Essentially, she was completing a manual process in Excel which was not only time consuming but rather boring. Having a slight obsession with Excel, I offered to take a look to see if there was a way to make it easier. A few minutes later, I showed her a simple formula that allowed her to automate part of the process. Not only did this save her several hours of time over the course of the project, it saved her sanity by allowing her to focus on more engaging activities.

Additionally, social collaboration can spark a creative moment that leads to a product improvement or a new way to position and differentiate a service. Garnering information from people with different backgrounds or expertise can give employees the fresh perspective they need for a breakthrough idea. This can enhance both the employee and the firm’s effectiveness by ensuring they are engaged in the right activities.

Finally, allowing employees to easily interact over instant messaging and chat; then effortlessly switch to web or video conferencing helps increase employee satisfaction. By nature, humans are social creatures and crave interaction with others. Spending five minutes to discuss the weekend or the latest sports win allows employees to relax and ultimately recharge their batteries. As a result, they are more focused during meetings or when completing their individual tasks which leads to better ideas, better products and a more efficient organization.

This post is part of a series covering the benefits of social collaboration within an organization.

Part One: The Rise of Social Collaboration
Part Three: The Power of Business Partnerships
Part Four: Using Collaboration to Increase Customer Lifetime Value