The Impact of Social Business on Remote Work
Frank Gullo 270006Y9C5 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  video-conferencing collaborative socbiz social-business-tools social-business ibmconnect mobile
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Frank Gullo, Director of Digital and Mobile Strategy, Superior Group
Toward the end of January I attended IBM Connect 2014, a large conference focused on social, collaborative, and mobile technology. Though the ideas and presentations were impressive and thought-provoking, I found myself equally struck by how many of the people I met worked remotely and resided in different parts of the country (and world). It was easily three out of every four people.
This interested me as my company focuses on workforce solutions, and we often hear from hiring managers how the “War for Talent” can necessitate flex time, telecommuting, and remote working arrangements. Though remote working doesn’t make sense for every job or organization, it was clear from the attendees at Connect that it can and does work for many.
As I asked people about their remote working and they elaborated how they worked, I realized that social business, in addition to energizing workforces, is also helping catalyze remote workforces.
Enterprise Social Business Platform
Intranets and company-wide webs have existed for over a decade but only in recent years have the platforms matured into true social business platforms with capabilities beyond one-way content and document consumption. Today’s social business platforms, like IBM Connections, empower remote workers by providing tools that make it easy to stay updated, create, and collaborate.
Have something to say? Post a status update or blog entry. Need to update far-flung team members? Update the project specifications to a Community and list remaining questions in a Forum. Want to track and assign work? Create an activity and delegate tasks. The bottom line is social business platforms make it easier than ever for remote workers to interact productively with their colleagues.
External Social Media
Though social business is much more than social media, everyday collaboration in a social business culture spills over into external spaces and drives further sharing. For remote employees, social networks are often an extension of internal social platforms and sometimes the best way to interact with co-workers, customers, suppliers, and independent contractors. For example, a remote employee may want to share an interesting article about Data Visualization with her staff (Connections) as well as her industry peers (Twitter and Linked). She then may want to blog about the subject with conclusions about competitors (blog on internal company social business platform), after which she will repurpose the entry as a general piece (on her company’s public blog). Again, social business is not social media, but it is enriching the interstitial spaces between internal and external networks, particularly for remote workers.
A common complaint expressed about remote working is that you lose the human interaction, the visual tells and cues. Since most communication is non-verbal, this is a legitimate concern, especially for remote workers who sometimes go days or weeks without seeing a coworker’s face. Video conferencing has helped to bridge the gap and is used to an extent today by organizations for interviews, meetings, webcasts, and other needs, but its usage isn’t mainstream yet.
Social business will make it so by enabling the use of video to connect and share knowledge within a larger social matrix. In this sense, video conferencing will be used for much more than meetings and integrated as an everyday part of the social content stream and collaboration spaces, adjacent to chat and instant meetings, and easily embeddable in internal social platforms and on YouTube. Meetings will be different, with today’s around-the-room conference call replaced by an interactive online whiteboard and “Brady Bunch” video collage bringing together – visually and nonverbally -- remote workers and their onsite counterparts.
If social business drives mobile, then mobile drives social business too, as today’s remote workers are adapting to do their job anywhere and on multiple devices. It’s not just the platforms, although mobile-ready social applications and tools are the building blocks for people to find and socialize information.
Social business empowers mobile as a mindset by encouraging connections and innovation from anywhere. This allows all employees to take the organization and brand with them -- to business meetings where they can present via mobile device, to conferences where they can post pictures to internal networks and tweet updates to their followers, and to the home office, where they can recharge and instant message with colleagues anywhere in the world. Social business doesn’t just enable mobile for remote employees. It breaks down the barriers between remote and non-remote staff. When everyone is mobile, everyone is remote too.
At Superior Group, Frank Gullo serves as Director of Digital and Mobile Strategy. His primary function is to improve and maximize the firm's knowledge, skills, and abilities in the areas of digital marketing, mobile, and technology-driven marketing initiatives. He also drives business innovation initiatives, including advocacy and evangelization of IBM Connections as the company’s internal social business platform.
In his spare time, Frank volunteers as a firefighter and EMT. He is also the founder of the startup Date on Purpose, a platform that brings bachelor and bachelorette auctions online for charity.
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