How to Connect Remote Workers With Social Collaboration

Social collaboration software can help your employees work together even when they're spread apart.
August 30, 2012

We’ve seen a significant increase in contingent workforces since the Great Recession. Advances in technology have made this money-saving model far more practical. Employees no longer have to be in the same location to feel connected. 

There’s one technology in particular that’s helping to pave the way—social collaboration software. This software market was a $600 million industry in 2010, but it's estimated to reach $6.4 billion in 2016. If you’re looking for a way to stay connected, feel engaged and get stuff done, exploring social collaboration could be worthwhile.

Social Collaboration Defined

SuccessFactors is a leading provider of cloud-based business execution software and produces Jam, a social learning and collaboration platform. Jam makes sharing and finding relevant information and experts within organizations easy.

“Jam provides simple-to-use video and screen captures so users can easily record and share their expertise," says Charles DeNault, director of product marketing at SuccessFactors, an SAP company. "Jam is available on your computer and your mobile device, allowing users to access content, capture real time updates, learn on-the-go and comment from mobile phones and tablets.”

While companies are using social collaboration tools to assist productivity, social collaboration doesn’t always have to be company-driven. Sarah Evans, chief evangelist at collaboration platform Tracky, says individuals can manage personal tasks, professional projects and social networks using collaboration tools.

"Many of us live life like this: Correspond via e-mail with Mom for Dad’s birthday, text friends about where to meet for dinner, conference call with five co-workers all working to revise one document," Evans says. "You can actually streamline all of the above by using Tracky either via browser, iOS or Android as your central communication hub because it encompasses all the major tools that we use daily.”

Understanding the Audience

While everyone can stand to be a little more organized, social collaboration platforms do have target audiences. Darryl Myers, vice president of business development for group communication tool Wiggio says, “The ideal person to use Wiggio is involved in at least one group, and simply wants to make it easy to communicate and share information with their group members." The tool is currently used by more than 100,000 groups, from students to businesses and religious organizations. Myers says his team designed Wiggio to appeal to even the least tech-savvy types.

Evans offers another accurate, albeit different, picture of a social collaboration software user. “The ideal Tracky user is most likely dying a slow and painful e-mail death and suffering from app-fatigue; buried under the weight of too much over-communication and struggling to manage a busy life in too many platforms.”

Implementing a Social Collaboration Platform

Social collaboration platforms offer rich results, but it does take some work on the front-end. DeNault says the key challenge is getting everyone involved. “Getting profiles populated, people into the right groups, and everyone connected is a big challenge. People are reluctant to invest time and effort into something without seeing value or a clear path to value for them.”

“Companies are looking for a platform with a very low learning curve," Myers says. "We’ve found that if someone doesn’t immediately understand how to navigate a new platform, they won’t continue to use it, unless they are forced to, which leads to a negative user experience. We even test our tools on fourth graders to make sure our platform is intuitive.”  

Bottom-Line Results for Social Collaboration

Speaking of the need to ramp up quickly, it’s logical that results must come equally fast. DeNault says that definitive quantitative measurements are down the road but initial response has been great. “Our clients indicate that employees are better informed with Jam and strongly prefer blogs and video over e-mail." 

Social collaboration software has the potential to enhance communications both with employees and customers. As we all know, having an effective communication strategy translates into employee productivity and a better customer experience. Identifying the right social collaboration platform and devoting time on the front end will make the effort successful. It’s this kind of investment that could yield significant results for the company in profits.