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Why social tech's real value is inside the business

Robert L. Scheier | Dec. 20, 2011
Although companies have been urged to adopt "Web 2.0" and social technologies for years now, the truth is that relatively few have done so internally in any serious way -- and use inside the business is where the most value can be gained.

Likewise, mobile video software vendor Viddy found uTest to be faster and less expensive than using in-house testers or an outsourcer, says David Dean, Viddy's head of operations. The service also made it easier to find testers who can check the application on various versions of the iPhone running on different networks, he says.

Crowdsourcing a basic function such as data entry can be 60 to 70 percent less expensive than traditional outsourcing, says outsourcing consultancy Everest Group. It cautions, though, that large customers worry there is less accountability with the crowd than with a traditional staff, and that Web-based contributors do a better job on well-defined tasks than on more complex business processes. Some firms are also nervous, it says, about protecting information shared with anonymous workers over the Web.

Tips for deploying social tech successfully

Like any other technology, business social technology must be deployed and managed right to deliver a return.

Several early adopters recommended deploying social tech platforms as add-ons to existing applications rather than forcing users to install and learn something new. As proof, IBM's Benitez points out that more than half the traffic on Connections comes from links to regular office applications and users' email clients.

Some customers are integrating the new social tech platforms with existing collaboration platforms such as Microsoft SharePoint. In those cases, SharePoint often becomes a repository for reference material, with real-time conversations migrating to social media tools.

Egencia did a "road show" educating skeptics on the value of Chatter, as well as an internal marketing campaign that offered prizes for users who found information using Chatter. Users organize information themselves as they create it through the use of hash tags and groups, which allow others to find information months or years after it was created.

Although it gets less attention than its fancy customer-facing social networking counterpart, business social tech can deliver both dollar savings and harder-to-measure benefits such as involvement, commitment, and speed. In a tough, uncertain economy, that's more than enough reason to try to bring social tech in-house.


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