Are ESNs like Yammer and Slack Even Useful?

Corporate social networking is big business, and has been growing in prominence since the late ‘00s. The demand for companies to incorporate apps such as Yammer, Slack, and our very own Claromentis Innovate, indicates that the trend for social working is increasingly high. Indeed, the whole concept of social intranets shows no sign of slowing down.

Corporate social networking vs. email

Corporate social networking, sometimes known as enterprise social networking (ESN), is geared towards improving internal comms by providing an online platform for employees to communicate. How does this differ from email you ask? Email is proven to be a distraction rather than a facilitator of efficient working, and is segmented away from the productive digital workplace, letting in unwarranted interruptions. With corporate social networking, everyone knows where they stand, where communication is focussed on business goals, projects, and company matters. Conversations are stored and streamlined into dedicated channels, preventing digressions and promoting transparency – which certainly can’t be said for email!

Choosing your corporate social network

Companies wanting to improve internal collaboration will want to determine which corporate social networking tool is best for them, and there is an overwhelming amount of choice. When looking at all the services out there, ESNs such as Slack, Yammer, and Chatter are shamelessly hyped up, but one has to assess if they will actually be useful in the real world of work.

Are ESNs even useful on their own?

Indeed, recent studies have shown that after the initial spike in user engagement, ESNs quickly dwindle in usage shortly after they are implemented. So why does reality not live up to the hype?

One theory is that there is no real connection between a company’s workplace culture and the ESNs they use to communicate with. In isolation, it could be argued that ESNs aren’t actually that useful, as they just represent another place to get distracted from “real work”. No one can deny that they facilitate communication, but do they facilitate productive working? A decline in usage could suggest that this isn’t the case.

The real power and return on investment comes when ESNs are integrated into systems that already promote productivity. Intranet platforms and digital workplaces are the ideal carriers for corporate social networking; user accounts, documents, knowledge management, project management, business processes, and e-learning are in place already, boosting the effectiveness and relevance of ESNs. Staff can use ESNs to link to internal files, discuss e-learning modules, and collaborate on projects, all within the same company community that stores this information. This is exactly the approach that Claromentis, and other software vendors, take when trying to execute a solution that will actually be useful to every day users. Indeed, compare this to a standalone ESN, where all links and discussions would be unrelated and unorganised, leading to users wondering why they are using it at all.

If staff cannot see the relevance or tangible benefit of using a standalone ESN, then it will ultimately fail to take off in the same way that an integrated corporate social network in the digital workplace can. There needs to be a palpable connection between everyday tasks and ESNs, otherwise, what’s the point?

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