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Many success stories prove that social collaboration is worth the money. It takes planning, commitment, and time, but the benefits make up for the effort.

Although many managers have managed to embed social collaboration into their organizational culture to such an extent that it has become an integral part of everyday activities, many companies still need to cope.

Three examples explore why this is so. We will discuss three companies that have successfully implemented social collaboration. Although they operate in different industries, their similarities shed light on the secret of their success.

Unisys, a spokesperson for speed

A few years ago, Unisys, a software and IT services vendor, realized that communication between its 23,000 employees was slowing down.

“We wanted to enable our employees to communicate with each other quickly and efficiently. We wanted them to get real-time responses,” said Gloria Burke, head of collaboration strategy and management at the company.

Being among the first to introduce social collaboration was a key priority for Unisys. Having been in the world of IT, they had the advantage of being able to help their own customers when they moved to social software.

Unisys didn’t expect dramatic results overnight; they worked to a three-year plan. The latest figures show that over 78 percent of employees use the software, while managers and executives are 100 percent engaged.

The CEO’s strong support of collaboration from the start has also helped a lot. He himself was an active user of the software and often commented on various blogs. The news that even the boss liked the innovation spread like wildfire throughout the company, and others started to follow suit, says Burke. They also encouraged a healthy competitive spirit by making activities trackable by region and department, and the human resources department regularly set new goals for collaboration.

Telus, turning the focus inwards.

Telus, a Vancouver-based telecoms company, has gained an edge through its specific customer interactions. “Why shouldn’t we be the first to use social collaboration within the company to connect people with people, something with content?” asked Dan Pontefract, director of learning and collaboration. However, the question was somewhat rhetorical, as regardless of the answer, the social network was soon established within the company. “We use technology as we see fit.” This was Pontefract’s answer to why they decided to combine several social software packages rather than one complete package. So, all the problems have been solved, but we need solutions that are ‘hanging in the air’ waiting for the problem they were designed for to arise.

“We didn’t get social collaboration because it’s trendy,” says Pontefract. “It’s not about vanity; it’s about improving employee performance in real-time.”

Zappos, making work a game

Zappos is a hugely popular online shoe and clothing retailer that has “repurposed,” so to speak, the tools that enable it to connect with its customers and successfully apply them across its 2,000-employee organization.

“At Zappos, there’s no boundary between work and personal life,” says Zappos’ social commerce manager, Graham Kahr. Within the company, employees can communicate on various channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even good old-fashioned email. “Our company culture is excellent – it’s like employees to help others. We have so many ways to connect that we can easily communicate with each other,” says Kahr.

Different paths, similar ingredients

Unisys, Telus, and Zappos all have different ways of making collaboration and communication more effective. Still, they have a few things in common:

Even before social collaboration, they had a strong culture in which collaboration and knowledge sharing were common and familiar concepts.

They were all open to change and willing to adapt both in terms of work processes and work habits, and this flexibility made it much easier to innovate.

All three companies identified the areas where social software was most needed and chose a program that met all requirements.

They understood that social collaboration is a long-term business and requires continuous attention.

These three companies are a great example of how much planning goes a long way. Let the success stories of Unisys, Telus, and Zappos be the guideposts leading us along the long, bumpy, but undoubtedly rewarding road of social collaboration.

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