How to Cut IT Costs with Enterprise Social Computing

The struggle has gone on for a decade or more: How can we give workers all the tools they need to collaborate efficiently without breaking the bank? Knowledge Center contributor J.B. Holston shows you how, using an enterprise social computing platform in your company, you can give workers all the tools they need, while reducing IT costs, controlling enterprise assets and watching business performance soar.

/images/stories/70x50/bug_knowledgecenter_70x70_%282%29.jpgAs technology and the Internet mature, and as Generation Y floods the workplace, workers expect e-mail, calendaring, file sharing, social networking, knowledge management, expertise discovery, business intelligence, blogging, wikis, RSS, photos, video, chat and more. Progressive organizations typically try to provide these tools to ensure workers receive the right information and the right contacts, through the right channels at the right instant.

The trick, however, is providing these resources without spending too much in licensing fees or deluging the IT staff with implementation and administration burdens. One solution is a single, integrated social computing platform that synthesizes all these applications and functions into a "Facebook for the Enterprise" environment. With a single social computing platform, organizations can reduce their IT burden, licensing fees and operating costs-all while improving performance.

They can also better maintain control of their people and brand by keeping them on an enterprise social network versus consumer ones such as Facebook or MySpace. Here are five ways a "Facebook for the Enterprise" social computing platform does just that:

1. Less e-mail traffic

Aside from the burden of poring through e-mail, storing it typically costs $447 per GB per year. A Fortune 100 manufacturing company we work with estimates that reducing e-mail volume by merely one-half of one percent saves the company more than $600,000 annually. And, by letting employees interact in communities focused on work areas, conversation is streamlined and content is deliberately shared in context-including files that would formerly have been e-mail attachments. As a result, an organization can eradicate a lot of e-mail, transfer more knowledge and quickly pay off its enterprise social computing investment.

2. Reduced reliance on enterprise software

A comprehensive social computing platform is a natural environment for executing many of the activities that take place in far more costly customer relationship management (CRM), BI and human resources applications. On an enterprise social network, activities can involve a broader set of constituents working more organically around fresher information to solve problems faster.

3. Easy application integration

Why should a bank, for example, go into its mainframe and code a brittle alerting system to notify tellers of potential fraud when RSS and XML-the heart of better social computing platforms-can take care of it simply, cheaply and flexibly? Any information locked in high-cost legacy systems, applications and proprietary databases can be unleashed this way for easier consumption by the people who can benefit. Traditional enterprise application integration is especially costly in this era of perpetual restructuring, where it can take months and millions of dollars to code integrations to e-mail systems from merging companies.

4. Reduced printing costs

Organizations can significantly reduce costs of printing equipment, supplies and maintenance by reducing printer usage, which turns out to be a wonderful side effect of using RSS and social computing to build or update a company portal. For example, one of our customers cut its printing and toner budget by nearly two-thirds simply because employees were able to view important content from their start pages. They no longer had to drill deeply into disparate back-end systems to find and print out their reports and other documents.

5. Simplifying life for HR

Enterprise social networks simplify life for HR in a couple of ways. The first way is that they provide an environment attractive to Generation Y candidates and the way they expect to work. 77 percent of Millennials use social networking sites (which are brimming with non-work distractions and security holes), 50 percent subscribe to more than one social networking site, and a full 91 percent say newer, innovative technologies in the workplace would make them more likely to consider a potential job opportunity.

The second way enterprise social networks simplify life for HR is that they capture important institutional knowledge as their best workers retire. The enterprise social network also provides a support system and safety net during layoffs that mitigates the morale problems that ensue. Networking, on or offline, is by far the most common route to a new job. 70 percent of workers found their current position this way. With an enterprise social network, laid-off workers have a fighting chance to land on their feet, which everyone appreciates.

These are just a few of the ways an integrated social computing platform translates into hard cost savings for a company. There are even more savings in publication subscriptions, travel and software development. All this is good news because social computing is a fact of life. It's coming. All computing will be social. Better to have it happen in your enterprise environment and improve business performance than lose control of your brand and people to places such as Facebook and MySpace.

/images/stories/heads/knowledge_center/holston_jb70x70.jpg J.B. Holston is President and CEO of NewsGator. J.B. has run a wide range of technology and media enterprises over the last two decades. As President of Ziff Davis International, Holston managed Ziff Davis' operations across more than 100 countries, and launched Yahoo! Europe. He was part of the senior management team that led the successful LBO of ZD by Forstmann, Little, and subsequent sale to Softbank.

Since selling his last technology start-up, J.B. has helped create a wide range of for-profit and not-for-profit entities, including Media-x at Stanford, among several others. After receiving a BA in creative writing from Stanford in 1979, he taught English at Phillips Academy, worked as a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group in Boston, studied and wrote in Paris, France, then worked in strategic planning for NBC and RCA.

J.B. received his MBA from Stanford in 1986, then worked on Jack Welch's staff at GE before moving back to NBC, where for five years he was responsible for strategic planning and NBC's international operations. He can be reached at [email protected].