Workplace Collaboration and Enterprise Social Networking
Apr 29 2015
Innovation is central to retaining a competitive edge in today’s knowledge economy. Companies need to innovate in all areas of the organisation to improve business efficiency and profitability, but the crucial role of collaboration in innovating is too often overlooked. A recent Forbes article describes how some of the world’s most successful organisations are redesigning their business models for cross-company collaboration based on the belief that the “future will be won by those who leverage the power of many.” 
Any organisation looking to innovate needs a good framework to support that collaboration, not only between its employees but also with its external partners. This is a currently area where Australia is lagging behind competitors in emerging markets. Email, instant messaging and online meeting software can all support the collaborative process, but a drawback of these technologies is that the information from those interactions resides in individual silos, rather than a knowledgebase where it can be accessed by the rest of the organisation. Better technologies are needed and many organisations are now discovering the benefits of social networking software to enable the collaborative process.
A 2012 McKinsey study showed that today’s knowledge worker will spend 65% of their work day on collaborating and communicating with others. The study also found that social technologies had the potential to improve productivity by a surprising 20-25%. Enterprise social networking, i.e. social networking in a business context, was found to deliver these productivity gains by: i) reducing time formerly spent on managing emails; ii) simplifying information-gathering with a store of searchable messages; and iii) retaining corporate knowledge thereby supporting more effective collaboration and task-based research.
Not all social networking initiatives reap these benefits, however, often due to a lack of visible management support or ill-considered selection of social networking software. Company leaders need to be consulted early in the selection process so that they will promote organisational support for the solution when implemented. When selecting the right technology for the workplace, it is critical to think strategically about the current challenges for your business and how well they will be addressed by the technology under review.
Infor has widely promoted their new collaboration platform, Infor Min.gle which is designed as a common interface for all of the core Infor products and a single arena for information exchange. To help M3 businesses determine whether Infor Ming.le is the right fit for them, we look at how we think Infor Ming.le stacks up against six key criteria for selecting an enterprise social networking product.
Is it secure?
Security of popular social media technologies, such as Facebook and Twitter, will never be as robust as private social media sites. When these public tools are used to discuss mission-critical matters, it increases the risk of sensitive information being accessed by unauthorised people.
A major benefit of using social media functionality that is integrated with ERP systems, like Infor Ming.le, is that it incorporates the tight security measures required of any ERP software, ensuring the organisation retains strict control over who can access company conversations.
Is it truly social?
Unless a social networking software is both smarter and more usable than existing technologies, adoption will be slow while workers continue to rely on what they are used to. Social technology should provide the social profiles, group distribution, and forum capabilities that users have come to expect from true social network sites.
While Infor Ming.le can’t compete with products like Facebook on overall user experience, it does hit the target on most of the functionality users have come to expect from social networking software.
Every user in Ming.le has a personal profile, with their photo and contact information and each user sees a personal Ming.le feed page. The feed is populated based on the user’s decisions to ‘follow’ people, groups or other social objects. New alerts and workflow tasks are also displayed the user’s personal feed. When users receive new messages, post replies and connections requests, an icon will display the number of new notifications received with direct access to a notifications summary window.
Social posts can be created with links, attached documents and screen shots. The user can make the post public or choose a person or group to share it with.
Group forum functionality is largely addressed by the new Streams functionality in Ming.le Enterprise Edition which allows the creation of private forums that can be structured around collaborative project tasks.
Is it embedded within current organisational systems?
Social networking technology only becomes central to an employee’s work environment when users have facility to collaborate alongside the critical information residing in their existing systems.
For an M3 site, this is one area where Infor Ming.le has no competition. Social posts can be created directly from M3 functions with bookmark links allowing collaborators to quickly access the related M3 transactional and master data. Some transactional and master data in M3 is treated as social objects and users can ‘follow’ those objects from the Papparazzi In Context Application to receive updates on social and task activity related to that social object.
Is it mobile?
As companies come to rely more heavily on anytime, anywhere business, social networking technologies need to provide device-independent mobile solutions.
With Infor Ming.le running in HTML5, and the new iOS mobile applications now available on the iTunes App Store, Infor’s Hook & Loop design team have created a functionally-rich mobile solution that will support users in posting attachments such as video files directly from their mobile device.
Is it searchable?
As information grows, it is important that structured search functionality is available to meet the needs of business users.
Ming.le provides only simple search functionality that allows users to search across alerts, tasks, groups, people or Ming.le posts. To get the most value out of stored organisational conversations, Ming.le could be improved by adding an advanced search tool which would enable more powerful text-based searches.
Is it inter-organisational?
Effective innovation requires external collaboration with customers, partners and suppliers. In order to support cross-company collaboration, it is important that any solution will support some type of restricted-level access by external parties to relevant information for collaborative projects.
Infor have solved this problem with the Ming.le Enterprise Edition add-on, Ming.le Enterprise Communities. With Enterprise Communities, external users, from the cloud-based Infor Communities, can access only authorised Ming.le Streams where they can more effectively collaborate with in-house staff.
With the right software and leadership support, an enterprise social networking implementation has the potential to provide significant gains in productivity and innovation. Infor Ming.le offers a new opportunity for M3 sites to gain a competitive edge.
1. Vitasek, K. “Innovation and Collaboration: It’s not an Either:Or Proposition”. Forbes. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
2. Fitzsimmons, C. “Innovation: Australia’s risk-averse culture and lack of collaboration sees emerging markets catch up”. Business Review Weekly. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
3. “The Social Economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies”. McKinsey Global Institute. Retrieved 29 April 2015.