Unifying The Social Multinational

Today’s multinational corporation is a conglomerate in which the central IT function needs to deal with the reality of supporting:

  • Multiple countries with different sets of IT infrastructure,
  • Four generations of users, ranging from digital ignorants to digital natives,
  • Many cultures and languages with different communication and collaboration behavior
  • Several departments with separate and distinct business processes

Faced with ubiquitous connectivity and customers that are moving to a world that is social, mobile and open, multinationals realize that they must improve the communication and collaboration experience to attract young talent and to boost productivity and innovation. Yet, at the same time, they need to make sure that a proposed unified communication and collaboration (UCC) implementation is suited to the conglomerate needs and that all employees will feel compelled to use it.

Two separate paths to UCC collide today.

The first path is the central IT function approach towards a global UCC implementation. It starts with deploying a single IP telephony environment across countries, business units and subsidiaries. Once a single IP environment is in place, additional communications functionality such as video conferencing will be added. With video conferencing in place, collaboration functionality such as screen and file sharing and whiteboards will be introduced. Mobility comes into play with apps extending the UCC experience to the notebook, tablet and smartphone. To walk this path, central IT will have to explain the advantages of high cost reduction and increased productivity compared to the advantage of each business unit, country or subsidiary having their own detailed and specific approach. Also, central IT will need to proactively work at having the UCC solution being adopted and used by everyone.

The second path is a grassroots movement that comes from the younger generation. They have a very different relation with communication and collaboration than the previous one. Digital natives show and share experiences and knowledge much easier. They are building their own unified environment, bringing their own IT and using consumer technology instead of corporate IT. Social media hubs like Facebook and Google+ are taking on the role of their personal communicator, social networker, business collaborator, entertainment curator, search engine and directory. Increasingly these hubs are integrating additional communications channels such as voice, mail and video into their suite of social networking offerings. This path is a nature trail that is being flattened spontaneously without central guidance. However, older generations cannot walk this road unless we educate them.

Will these two paths ever cross?

From a technology perspective, vendors that have the potential to do this are, amongst others, Yammer, Jive, Cisco (Quad), IBM (Connections), and Salesforce (Chatter). Wildcard contenders are, amongst others, Facebook, Twitter, and HootSuite. But it is equally likely that this intersection will need to be very flexible and based on multivendor solutions to support the different generations and their specific preferences. A consultative led approach to building a custom intersection is best in this case.

From a usage perspective, driving adoption amongst all employees will be the most important measure of success (and ROI) for both standard and custom based solutions. Unifying the social multinational is therefore only partly about technology. Without the proper training, education, and resulting user acceptance, a top down implementation is bound to fail.

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About Pim Bilderbeek