Nov 16, 2009

How can firms leverage social technologies internally? 3 Scenarios



Originally posted at the 2020 Social blog

Gaurav and Gautam collaboratively wrote this blog post on a wiki. This is the first in the series of blog posts where we will explore how social technologies, when used effectively within the organization, can create significant business value for Indian firms.




A TYPICAL CONVERSATION

Ever since I joined 2020 Social three weeks back, we have had several interesting conversations with Indian firms of all shapes and sizes on how to use social technologies within the workplace.
The typical conversation starts when someone fills the “Ask Us How” form on our website: “I am excited by the possibilities of using social technologies within our company and want to explore what these technologies can really help us with.”

During initial discussions, it becomes clear that the client faces a business problem, but she is not able to make the connection between how “the business being social” will help her solve her problem.

In the first post in this series, we have outlined three typical business problems several Indian firms are struggling with. In the next three posts, written over the next week, we will share scenarios for how social technologies can be a part of the solution.

SCENARIO 1: PRODUCT INNOVATION

Bedi Electronics has been amongst the top ten firms in the Indian consumer electronics industry over the last twenty years. Its 1200 employees are spread across six plants and twenty sales offices. Over the last two years, it has fallen behind its competitors in terms of product innovation.

Rahul Bedi, the 28 year old scion of the family, has recently taken over as the Chief Marketing Officer of the business. Rahul knows that his 250 frontline sales officers have the pulse of the market. However, Rahul gets to meet them infrequently, in annual sales conferences and monthly market visits. They share interesting product ideas with them during one-to-one interactions, but he doesn’t know how to validate them with other sales officers and build on them.

“I wish I knew how to learn about consumer preferences from my frontline sales officers,” Rahul said to Gaurav, “help them build upon each others’ ideas. If we can revitalize our product innovation process, Bedi Electronics will regain its strength in the market.”

SCENARIO 2: TEAM EFFECTIVENESS

Alacrity Legal Technologies is a new Legal Process Outsourcing firm which focuses on a complex method of helping law firms in the US get their litigation issues outsourced to India. On each of these teams it needs the various groups of people to work together so that case materials and lawyer’s notes for clients to work on before the start of the day. Hence teams of law researchers, Indian lawyers and US client managers need to work together to get fast turnaround times.

Sundar Raman, the 43 year old CEO of the firm, was concerned at the high levels of customer complaints – the key theme being that ALT teams always seemed to be missing their deadlines. Sundar decided to dig deeper and found that the reason why this was happening was that the nature of serial processing that the work required meant that a delay in emailing (due to whatever reason) would impact the final output by a large extent.

Sundar instinctively knew that a way for people to work on documents together without necessarily emailing versions back and forth would speed up the deliverables.

“But I don’t know what that toolkit looks like,” Sundar told Gautam, “and I don’t know if it’s even possible to change the work habits of seasoned paralegals and lawyers.”

SCENARIO 3: BUILDING AN ENGAGED WORKFORCE

Over the last two decades LMN Corp has grown from a family owned business to a professionally run conglomerate with diverse interests in shipping, mining, IT, telecom and media. Growth has been robust as the diversifications have paid off.

Sumit Bangia, the 50 year old COO of the company, has been an old LMN hand. Over the last few years, Sumit has become increasingly concerned with the increasing turnover of younger workers. Sumit’s trusted HR Head, 35 year old Shalini Taneja, found out from exit interviews that recent recruits felt disconnected from the conglomerate and felt that they didn’t know how they fit into the big picture.

Sumit and Shalini decided that the key to retaining young recruits was to build an open organizational culture where young recruits could connect with each other and older mentors across levels and functions. It was also important that they felt empowered and encouraged to bring their whole self to work.
When Gautam met Sumit and Shalini, Sumit explained his dilemma: “I don’t think we need more increments and higher salaries or better designations to motivate our people. We’ve hired some great people over the last few years. If we can just make them connect with each other and discover their strengths and then get out of their way, I am sure they will take us to great heights.”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Now that the stage is set in all the three scenarios, you must be wondering: what happens next? Find out in our next three posts.