social toolsIt is logical to think that social tools might benefit an organisation. After all, they should improve collaboration and communication. But it’s one thing to believe it might be the case, and quite another to have evidence, so it’s good to read a report from McKinsey setting out a clear case that social tools are reshaping organisations. Here’s how.

Almost all organisations use social tools, but not all tools are created equal – In total, 93% of executives surveyed by McKinsey said that their company was actively using at least one social technology. Almost three quarters of respondents said that social tools were at least ‘somewhat’ embedded in their employees’ working lives. But some tools are much more valued than others, particularly those that support and enable collaboration.

Real-time interactions and remote collaboration are the most valuable benefit of social tools – Remember the days when the only way to share something remotely was email (or, even worse, fax)? If your collaborator wasn’t in the same office, you sent your message, and then waited. And waited. But now, 55% of executives surveyed said that the most beneficial feature of social tools was real-time interactions. The same proportion said that it was the ability to collaborate with a specific group of people. It’s all about working together.

Accessibility was also valued – While 55% valued real-time collaboration and ability to work with a specific group, nearly as many (54%) said that accessibility across multiple platforms was valuable. This probably reflects the growing trend to use multiple devices, and especially mobile, enabling remote and anytime working. Now that organisations and workforces are truly becoming global, this is more and more important.

Companies using social collaboration tools report better integration of these tools into working life – Executives in the companies that are using these team-collaboration social tools are more likely to report that social tools are ‘extremely integrated’ into working life, and that at least half of their business activities are digitised. In other words, if you provide tools that are actively useful and help people to do their jobs better, then they are more likely to use them routinely.

Social collaboration tools are being used right across organisations – While many companies focus their use of social on customer-facing processes and areas, like sales and marketing, those companies that have adopted social team-collaboration tools report a different picture. In those companies, social tools are also being used in internal processes, such as R&D, or IT management. In other words, social tools can shape the way the organisation works.

If you want to digitise processes, using social tools can help – It’s fair to say that most companies still focus their digitisation efforts on customer-facing processes. But all the evidence suggests that social can help with digitisation of processes, whether customer-facing or external. In every process where companies are digitising and also using social tools, those surveyed agreed that social had helped the digitisation process.

The effect of social on digitisation is greatest on internal processes- Social tools were being used least to support internal processes such as demand planning, R&D, procurement and recruitment. But ironically, where they were being used, companies were seeing the biggest gains from those processes. Using social really seems to pay in these processes.

Social is even more powerful when companies use the data from social interactions – Companies where processes such as are already digital, and data from social interactions with customers are used in the process, report higher gains from use of social tools. This sounds like a positive feedback loop: if you know more about your customers, you can target marketing more accurately, and so it is more likely to be successful.

Social tools are expected to improve communication and make work structures more fluid – Two thirds of respondents expected social tools to improve communication within their organisation in the next three years. Perhaps this is not a huge surprise, but almost half expected that social tools would also make work more flexible, by which they meant more project-based and less team- or function-based.

Seeing the benefits of social tools accelerates acceptance and likelihood of future change – The more social tools were in use, the more executives expected to see these changes to working patterns. But more importantly, executives at companies using next-generation social tools, enabling team-collaboration, were much more likely to expect more significant changes, such as the rise of self-organising teams. Success, it seems, begets expectations.

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