Monday, January 14, 2013

Why the bad luck with your enterprise social network?

Author: Shankar Bharatan

Employee social networks is no more the ‘the topic’ today.  Many organizations have jumped on this bandwagon.  In the initial days, there were skepticism and concerns that employees might crash the site, connecting and conversing the way they do in popular social networking sites.   But the employees completely surprised their employers.  After the initial check and a cursory ‘Hello World!’ nothing much happened.  What happened?  Aren’t people crazy about social networks?

The fundamental flaw lies there, in that social network analogy.  Personal social networks are interesting places where one can meet his friends, know what’s happening with them and in general with the world.  Apart from the general networking pleasures, it’s a great place for a person to learn new things and validate his own ideas.   There’s so much of personal incentive in using Facebook. 

Sadly, enterprise social networks don’t provide these incentives.  They just become one more channel for internal marketing, thus offering no new learning. Moreover, most enterprise social networks have such loosely defined purposes that to an employee it conveys a message that it need not be taken serious.  

On the contrary, enterprise social networks with well-defined purposes can work a great deal to improve employee productivity and workplace processes.

HR is a great function that can get you started on a fantastic note on your enterprise social network initiatives.  Here are 3 areas where you could use your enterprise social network, and, for the incremental effort put in, reap big benefits:

§  Its estimated that 80% of learning happens through informal means whereas organizations spend 80% of their training budget on formal courses.  Rethink your learning strategies.  Apart from videos as learning materials, many courses can be converted into an experience-sharing format, a form of question and answers that makes them easier to consume.  Your authors and trainers can come from your own talent pool.  Incentivize them enough to keep up the good work.

§  Use the social network to greatly complement your regular appraisal process.  Allow employees to validate their coworkers’ skills and competencies, provide contextual references and testimonials of their work.  As compared to the annual appraisal process, this is a much more natural way of understanding one’s performance and potential.   Besides, it saves a lot of time in collating all information during the final appraisal.   It might be possible that this initiative might be used as a mutual admiration club, but in most cases, employees will not risk their own reputation by vouching for the wrong guy. 

§  Social networks are a great place to stay in touch.  Why restrict it to your current employees?  Build an alumni network, or a network of external talent.  Together with your employee references, these networks could be the sources from where you’ll pick more than 50% of your next hires.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Supporting Workforce Mobility

Author: Abhijith Kohli

Traditionally, a mobile workforce is defined as one which does not have one fixed place of work or which moves between work locations but is linked to the company and its resources through virtual private networks, the Internet, and mobile networks. It was this set of people that initially necessitated workforce mobility support and given their limited numbers the mobility support was usually optional and mostly limited. It was limited in terms of the number of people to be supported, the numbers of business processes to be supported and the number and type of platforms to be supported.

However, with rapid strides made by technology the concept of workforce mobility has undergone a paradigm shift. With the proliferation of mobile devices, especially smart phones, and the decreasing cost of mobility services, the days of the 9 to 5 worker are long gone. Workers today have the ability to stay connected to their organization 24X7. The estimated number of the new mobile workforce is expected to cross the 1 Billion mark by 2013.

Hence, the need to support workforce mobility is no more optional but essential for organizations. If it needs to engage its workers and help improve their productivity, it needs to reach out to them using the platform they prefer the best. A few key factors that need to be considered for providing workforce mobility support are:

·         Identifying Business Processes – An organization has to first identify which business processes should be provided on mobile, given the obvious limitations of smart phones – the screen size. Therefore not all business processes, especially those which require heavy data entry or complex steps, are ideal candidates to be taken mobile. Every business process needs to be designed and if required tweaked to fit the mobile landscape. A guideline for choosing the appropriate business processes could be:
o    Approvals – The first set of business processes that can be taken mobile are Approvals. Approvals usually do not need heavy data entry or complex steps per approver, hence they are the ideal candidates for mobile adoption. Moreover, there can nothing more frustrating for an employee than delayed leave or expense approvals just because their supervisors are travelling and do not have access to their systems.
o    Frequent Self Service Transactions – The next set of business processes to be taken mobile could be frequent self service transactions like leave application, time booking, expense claims etc. Enabling an employee to perform such transactions on the go using their mobile devices boosts their productivity while in office.
o    Dashboards – The leadership of the organization, which is often on the move, should be provided mobile access to intelligent dashboards which helps them gauge the health of the organization and take corrective action as and when required.
·         Cross Platform Support – The days of Blackberry being synonymous with enterprise mobility are history. We are in the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) era now. Iphones have taken over the mantle of leadership with Android devices in hot pursuit. Employees prefer to use their own mobile devices, even if they are provided one by their organization. The bottom line being that whether an organization likes it or not they need to provide cross platform mobility support. Even in a single platform they have to contend with varying form factors. Hence an organization should always be on the lookout for products or services being provided using technologies like HTML5 or cross platform tools like Sencha, Appcelerator etc.
·         Tablet Support – Providing cross platform support was just playing catch up. To be future ready an organization needs to ensure that their mobile designs are Tablet ready too. With the cost of tablets coming down it is estimated that 58% of mobile workers will rely more and more on tablets by 2013.

These are just a few of the factors and organization needs to consider before going mobile, there are other things to consider like native apps vs cross platform apps vs HTML5 apps, mobile device monitoring, mobile application security etc. The factors to be considered may be many but there is no running away from the fact that a mobile enabled enterprise is no longer an advantage but a necessity.