By Guest Author Tighe Wall from IBM.

Over the past year many of my conversations with clients have turned the corner from “Why Social?” to “Which Social?” These organizations are realizing that the benefits of Social Enterprise tools extend far beyond simple measures of ROI. Though famously difficult to measure, Social tools, when chosen and rolled out effectively, lower costs by reducing duplicate efforts, grow revenue through more effective R&D, and reduce training and meeting costs through digital collaboration rather than face-to-face meetings.

My focus tends to be on the broad reaching positive benefits of Social Enterprise that are harder to measure, namely their impacts on employees and organizations. Of these, I’ve recently been spending time speaking and thinking about the following benefits of Enterprise Social tools.

Locating expertise. Last week I needed a project manager with experience in the fashion industry who speaks Turkish. I was able look through the skills, locations, experience, and languages spoken by the 430,000 people at IBM in a matter of seconds through our socially enabled Expertise Locator tool. This saved me the time of emailing and calling around my network, reduced my vetting time, and let me propose several candidates to my client that day rather than next week.

Reducing email. How many emails do you receive a day? How much time do you typically spend writing and responding to emails a day? Social tools limit the number of emails one receives and engages many more people than the typical one-to-one email dialogue.

Yes, a reduction in email is one of the most easily measured benefits of Social by lowering storage costs. But storage is incredibly cheap. Time isn’t.

Attracting top young talent. According to Nielsen, 74 percent of Millennials say technology makes their lives easier and spend 21 hours a month on average using Social. How will the top young talent your firm is recruiting react when you tell them they won’t be able to communicate and collaborate with their fellow employees using digital channels? Do you expect them to stick around? And if they do, do you expect them not to use these external channels to collaborate with their coworkers?

The truth is, they will use external channels, and if your current employees don’t already have an internal Social platform, they likely are, too.

Flattened hierarchy. Not only do social platforms give entry-level employees the opportunity to engage and connect with business leaders, it gives those leaders, and in the the case of IBM, the CEO, a channel with which to engage their employees. Sound scary?

According to the Harvard Business Review, flat organizations are more nimble than those with large hierarchies, tend to innovate more quickly, and more often have a shared purpose. Entrenched hierarchies, slow rates of innovation, and divergent purposes sound much, much scarier to me.


When considering which Social Enterprise tool to roll out, carefully weigh the capabilities of each option, link them to your business processes, and set benchmarks and targets for ROI calculations. But don’t neglect to consider the other wide-reaching benefits of your decision.