Guest post by Sarah Evans (PRsarahevans), chief evangelist, Tracky, social correspondent at Sarah’s Faves and author of [RE]FRAME: Little Inspirations For A Larger Purpose

The majority of businesses aren’t run efficiently and employees lack the tools and equipment necessary to do their jobs. Quite a wide sweeping statement, I know. But I’ve also been in the trenches. And I realize it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve worked with companies who hired consultant after consultant to help with productivity recommendations, workflow suggestions and overall team building — all in the name of doing better business. These investments never quite had the impact leadership hoped for.

Why?

Because they lacked a fundamental commitment to launch an entire culture overhaul (more about this later). Not necessarily “cleaning house,” but changing the WAY people work individually, collaboratively and publicly. The key lies in this trifecta, partnered with the right people on board.

Now, predictions and estimates show that social collaboration tools will start to rule the roost in 2013. This comes after worldwide enterprise social software revenue surpassed $769 Million in 2011. That only hits one area of professional workflow — those who manage social media. Social software doesn’t include the rest of the work force, requiring some companies to use multiple collaboration tools that:

1. Don’t “talk” to one another or interdepartmentally;

2. Require massive amounts of training, and staff to upkeep software; or

3. Aren’t available for customers and clients to use.

It’s estimated that 75 percent of enterprise-level organizations will adopt a social collaboration platform in 2013. That adoption rate could very well be accurate, but long term use could be hindered if these tools and platforms are implemented ineffectively.

It’s time for these platforms to have their moment in the sun, not because they’re the “next big thing,” but because they are essential to the future of how business is done. Office workers spend an average of 28 hours a week writing emails, searching for information and collaborating internally. Furthermore, 80 percent of Americans work “after hours,” equaling an extra day of work per week.

Am I the only one who finds this maddening? I believe these are very conservative estimates and that it doesn’t have to be this way anymore. Many of today’s incoming workforce have a mentality of work/play/live and it doesn’t involve being tethered to a work device — but, if their work platform also lets them accomplish “play” and “live,” it may mean more productivity and connection to work.

The platform (yes, platform, not a tool) an enterprise company selects to lead their open social collaboration efforts is one of the biggest decisions they’ll make in 2013.

For the past year I’ve been on quest to spread the word about open social collaboration and productivity and why it is the key to business today. According to Charlene Li at Altimeter Group, enterprise collaboration drives business value in four ways:

Encourages sharing;
Captures knowledge;
Enables action; and
Empowers people

The app market alone is expected to hit $25 billion by 2015, but work doesn’t only happen on our mobile phones. Employees need access to do work on their desktop and/or laptop computer, tablet and phone — and they need one place they can manage their personal, professional and online lives.

Social networks invest an amazing amount of time, money and resources in the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). Open social collaboration platforms should have a similar feel to the networks that consume so much of our time. There’s an element of fun that shouldn’t be feared by the enterprise. Fun is also a productivity feeder. In fact, a lack of passion at work is affecting over 70% of workers who feel disengaged due to communication issues. This equates into 17 hours/week of lost productivity and lost revenue. Using platforms that also disrupt because they’re fun and engaging is an investment in employee satisfaction (and can impact the bottom line positively).

The majority of “big collaboration platforms” are limited to corporate-only use and if someone leaves an organization they leave everything behind. That’s not a lot of incentive for people to get on board with a new platform or new process. But, what if they could have have one platform that stays with them throughout their entire professional career? Mind. Blown.

What does the perfect open social collaboration platform for enterprise consist of? Features like:

- No software. Say no to software. Use a platform that is browser and app based.

- Easy on boarding process. All productivity platforms have a learning curve, but it shouldn’t be so complex that it deters you from using it.

- Open. Allow for contributions even from those not using the platform. If you can’t freely and easily bring people in to collaborate, there’s no sense in using the tool.

- Custom notification settings. In order to reduce email, your platform should send regular email updates and allow you to respond on your time.

- Real-time document editing. If you’re working on a project that has many rounds of edits and various documents, the right platform allows you to easily create or upload, comment and edit — together.

- Public and Private. You should be able to create both public and private tasks and groups in order to work seamlessly within in one place.

- Once you finish your project and want to share it with the world, you can share it publicly in the platform and via social networks direct from within the platform.

- Publishing. People become authoritative by sharing what they’re getting done. Platforms should allow for direct publishing to your blog or website and sharing via social networks.

- Schedule meetings and reminders. A basic feature for any collaboration platform should allow you to add tasks to your calendar.

The platforms that can accomplish this (and more) are the ones that will disrupt the entire workflow of the enterprise world. They will break down communication barriers, buy back time spent in email and empower employees to do more with a “super tool.”

Selecting the right platform is only step one of the process. Step two involves the more difficult, but necessary, process of starting a cultural change. This change will be led by the C-suite and requires a commitment to stopping the glorification of busy (#stgob), abusing email (and start using it they way it should be used) and working as collaboratively and productively as possible.

The year of 2013 offers businesses an opportunity to work better, not more. The rise of the open social collaboration platforms is about to disrupt in a big way.