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What role does social business play in rising productivity?

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What role does social business play in rising productivity?

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One of the principal benefits of social business is that it increases productivity in our workplaces.  It allows knowledge to be found more easily and assists employees collaborative endeavours.  So goes the theory anyway.  Does the reality match the hype though?

After all, despite a huge investment in social business technology over the past 24 months, with predictions that the market will hit nearly $5 billion by 2016, employee output per hour rose a meagre 0.3% in the 12 months to June.  This compares to an average rise of 3% during the decade encompassing the dot-com boom.

So something is wrong somewhere, but is social business helping? A SAP whitepaper earlier this year claimed that the average business loses around $25,000 per employee because of communication barriers, whilst a McKinsey report claimed that a successful implementation of an enterprise social network could deliver productivity gains of 25%.

University of Chicago professor Chad Syverson wrote a paper earlier this year looking at the history of productivity gains, and found that they tend to arrive in cycles, with technologies such as electrification and the world wide web delivering a decade of improvements, followed by a slump before the subsequent acceleration.

Are we at the foothills of such a surge in productivity again?  Is it simply a case that social business really does have the potential to deliver such improvements, but that many companies are making a pigs ear of implementing it, thus losing out on many of the potential gains?

There are optimists amongst us.  Cisco for instance believe that if we get this right that there’s $14.4 trillion of value at stake as things become more connected.  It’s fair to say that for many, social business sits within the so called trough of disillusionment as companies struggle to see the hype showered upon them by the technology vendors materialise.

Thankfully we’re over the stage of having to convince organisations that social is an inevitable part of their future, but now is the time to start delivering on the promises.  I’m currently working on a major report looking at the cultural implementation of social business, and the way organisations can build environments conducive to social behaviour.  I believe that these cultural aspects of social business are the key to long-term success, as they’re rooted in the behaviours we wish to see from employees.  Only then will the true productivity potential from social business begin to materialise.

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