Embracing ‘Social Business’ in Your Workplace

By Humayun Bashir, Country General Manager, IBM Pakistan

In today’s business climate, companies are facing more pressure to accomplish work faster, more efficiently, and with fewer resources. This challenge has caused companies to rethink the strategies they have in place and the models by which they run.

Improving the way we work isn’t about working harder – it’s about working smarter.

In the past decade, the workplace has undergone a radical transformation. We’ve all seen a generational shift in work styles, and the rate of change has been dizzying. As a new generation of social media-savvy workers and students have emerged, social networking tools are quickly becoming a staple in the enterprise. With the cultural embrace of everything social, how can companies benefit from adopting a social workplace?

Despite some management efforts to squash social software use at work, the real story is that more than half of U.S. workers use social media for business purposes at least once per week, according to technology analyst firm IDC.

20 million Pakistanis use the Internet (11 percent of the country’s population) and use of social media by local business is getting much more common. 2011 saw Pakistan’s first International Social Media Summit where top bloggers, twitter users, and other social media experts participated from all over Pakistan, joined by their counterparts from across the globe, including Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, and America.

Too often, companies are not able to capitalize on the new world of work because they are mired in old systems, old processes and old ways of thinking. A survey from the IBM Institute of Business Value, A New Way of Working, found that companies that embrace the new way of working can outperform their industry peers considerably.

In fact, companies that outperform their industry peers are three times as likely to have created dynamic, collaborative and connected work practices. The executives who IBM surveyed reported that greater collaboration wasn’t just helping them improve operational efficiency – it was also enabling growth. How do they do it?

  • Companies must make sure that employees can work productively regardless of location, organizational silos, time or device.
  • Managers must have instant access to data that allows them to match the right people with the right skills and with the right projects — regardless of title or rank or salary level.
  • Teams need to be able to come together quickly and disband just as quickly. People need quick access to relevant and timely information, and they also need ways to share their knowledge effectively in their organizations.

Of course, a social workplace has its critics too. Networks threaten hierarchies, and some managers scoff at the notion that employees don’t need to physically show up in the office every day. Others fight the spending that must occur in order for companies to become social businesses. There are those who still believe that hoarding information is power. Others will argue that it is safer to continue to close doors.

There is a middle ground of companies who know there is value in the new way of work but are unsure on how to begin. Where should we start? What practices would be best for our company to adopt? How can we convince executive management that there is real and tangible benefit to this?

We’ve all heard the stories and lessons learned. When IT departments banned the use of wikis because of corporate security concerns, employees set up wikis on their own. When managers tried to guard their turf, employees used instant messaging to get around them. When customers got upset about a product flaw, they shouted about it on the Internet. People are organizing their work and sharing company content in social networking tools when they have no other choices,.

The shift to embracing social is no longer about just having channels to push content, for example in blogs, wikis and Twitter. Social software is fundamental to real work getting done. The work experience has been, and continues to be, reinvented because of the changing style that revolves around social.

Companies must now equip themselves so that they can compete. This is not just about convincing naysayers to share power. It is also about adopting new technology tools that enable companies to create a social fabric, encouraging people to participate and collaborate.

The corporations of tomorrow will look dramatically different than the those at the turn of this century. At forward-looking companies, new ways of working are already under way. Clearly, social business holds great promise; equally important, it is already within reach.

  • Sir, as much I like the concept of your hypothesis, I don’t see it happening in Pakistan anytime soon and I say this because I have seen both sides of the picture in a very short time :)

    The culture you are proposing is possible only in SMEs or Startups but not in big corporate environments because people are not ready to adapt or change, and so are not the authorities.

    Also, for your viewing pleasure, I would like to share this TEDx Talk where founder of 37 Signals tells ‘Why work does not happen at workplace’ ;)


  • PTA figure is around 5 million and IBM Country Manager quoting “20 million Pakistanis use the Internet (11 percent of the country’s population) ..
    isn’t Interesting?

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