Thanks to social media, our personal and professional lives are becoming increasingly entwined between the real and the digital. As a result of moving further into this online universe, the business world is waking up to the fact that the way people connect and communicate at work is changing dramatically – especially among the younger professionals they are looking to recruit.

The dilemma for many firms is that they feel the pressure to adopt a progressive and modern social networking policy that not only appeals to the younger generation, but is also one that encourages productivity rather than deters it. They are therefore turning to social collaboration tools for the answer. But what is ‘social collaboration’ and can it really help your business?

Social collaboration
The answer is yes – it can contribute to productivity. This is because web-based social collaboration systems, which are similar to social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter, are designed with business in mind to make it easier to share information, creativity and innovation. They provide employees – and clients – with a virtual ‘space’, in which to meet and in this space they can share information, objectives, goals and tasks.

Engaged and connected
Employees who socially collaborate are more engaged and connected with their working environment. They put a stop to the time spent tracking down information, waiting for team meetings to take place, or chasing individuals for that integral piece of information that lives somewhere in their own personal folders. When working in social collaboration platforms, everyone involved will be working from the most up to date information allowing them to make collaborative group decisions that are based on a single version of the situation.

More billable work
Another upside to working in a socially collaborative way is that time-consuming meetings can often be avoided allowing the team to devote more energy and time to productive and billable work. Increasing efficiency is one way of turning projects around profitably and on-time and social collaboration can play an important part in driving a project’s progress.

A project manager could – for instance – chat with a team of consultants about a client’s brief at any given time, provide feedback on a report, or discuss changes that should be made to a design in real-time via a messaging feature. There is no need to call a team meeting – they can simply answer questions and discuss issues in real time, or plan out a schedule of activities for the entire team over the coming weeks. It all adds up to great team unity and profitability.

Happier clients
With more billable work underway, clients are bound to notice a difference. In fact, customer satisfaction will increase not only from a faster turnaround from suppliers, but because long, email chains and undocumented telephone conversations become a thing of the past. Clients can even be invited to join in on the project space – offering a level of transparency between client and professional services firm that competitors will find hard to beat.

Safe and secure
Of course, offering up complete visibility to any number of clients or consultants may seem daunting - for instance what if the wrong person got to some sensitive information? Protecting your firm and its data should be a major concern, so it’s wise to look for a platform that puts security first, and a system that can put safety control into the hands of those who are in charge.

Cloud-based collaboration platforms place responsibility for scalability, disaster recovery and data backup in the hands of a trusted and experienced third party and avoid further overloading your IT department. The speciality knowledge and service they offer will ensure your firm’s data is safe and secure and will give you and your clients the peace of mind you need to focus on the job in hand.

Limitless boundaries
With so much to gain, it’s little wonder social collaboration is becoming such a big hit in business. Helping your employees stay current, organised and connected whether they are across the hall or on another continent will undoubtedly prove hugely popular with your workforce, and in turn will help boost margins and client satisfaction.

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Deltek is a provider of enterprise software and social collaboration solutions for professional services firms. You can find out more about Deltek at www.deltek.co.uk
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