Two interrelated trends are slowly but surely changing the way that companies operate. The first is the growing use of social media technologies to collaborate with colleagues and customers; the second is the ongoing shift to mobile devices to perform work functions. Research from Avanade makes the point.
Sixty percent of companies say that most employees use personal computing devices at work, and 70 percent of them have changed at least one business process to capitalise on this new reality.
One of the things people are doing on these devices is collaborating—because they are mobile, the process has improved enormously. Seventy-seven percent of business and IT leaders say their companies are currently using social collaboration technologies, and 82 percent of that subset wants to use more of them in the future. Interestingly, users report time-saving and productivity as the main benefits while their bosses see social media as making jobs more interesting.
Companies see business benefit
The reasons behind this change are clear: companies see business benefits. The research shows that improved sales and customer acquisition are the main areas of improvement (73 percent), followed by enhanced ability to bring new products and services to market (58 percent) and increased profits (54 percent).
“However, harnessing the combined power of social media and mobility to make business processes more effective is not that easy,” observes Chris Barry, CRM Group Manager – Avanade. “In South Africa, companies buy into the concept, but the way they are using both social media and mobility remains relatively rudimentary. The focus is typically more on implementing the technologies whereas the real trick is aligning them to the overall strategy.”
One way round the impasse, Barry argues, is to partner with a service provider like Avanade that can help companies to understand the bigger picture and align their social media and corporate strategies, before deploying and managing enabling technologies. “To experience the benefits, it’s vital that processes are automated as much as possible, and powerful analytics are used to turn the mass of information into insight that can be actioned,” Barry says. “In this way, what the insights reveal can be aligned with the business strategy and the way we work can be redesigned.”
For example, Barry says that Avanade is locally helping clients develop ways of managing inbound cases derived from continuous monitoring of Twitter. “A person can’t sit glued to the screen and hope to spot what is significant—and yet Twitterati expect a response within an hour,” he explains. “Depending on the company’s strategy, a positive comment might simply be noted or would prompt an engagement in order (potentially) to create brand ambassador.”
This type of service can also help a company track trends in real time—particularly useful, say, when a new product or an ad campaign is launched. “It’s all about getting the information and bringing it to the attention of the right person quickly,” Barry says.
Mobile technology has the real ability to optimise field workforces, both in the sales and service areas—something that South African business is taking to heart. Mobility makes sales people more productive by reducing the amount of time they need to spend at the office—orders can be submitted as they are taken—and smart routing information can help reduce travel times. And, by giving inexperienced technical staff access to expert advice and best practice, customers receive better service.
Avanade’s research also shows up an interesting difference in focus between IT and the business that could account for the slow progress in genuine work redesign: 56 percent of C-suite executives are focused on capitalising on potential benefits while 55 percent of IT leaders are focused on minimising risk.
“Both are correct, but they need to agree on an overall direction first if companies are going to really reap the benefits,” Barry concludes.
1 Avanade, Global survey: Consumer technologies are changing long-standing business processes and work cultures—and impacting the bottom line (2013),
2 Avanade, Global survey: Is enterprise social collaboration living up to its promise? (May 2013) available at www.avanade.com.