It’s no stretch to say that social tools have changed the way we communicate in our personal lives –we’ve come to rely on our smartphones and tablets for everything from sending emails to checking game scores to ordering dinner at the push of a button. Yet when it comes to the enterprise – and particularly in sensitive industries like public safety and national security – the impact of social communities can be just as profound.
Like nearly every organization around the world, defense and justice agencies are searching for ways to break down silos and find increased cost efficiencies that take advantage of technology breakthroughs in areas such as cloud, social, mobility, and big data. They’ve made significant strides, too, by leveraging tools like Lync and Dynamics CRM to help users connect with each other and with data for unprecedented agility and productivity.
Tools like Yammer, the private social network for enterprises, are changing the way the world works together through improved knowledge management. A recent global survey across 32 countries found that the employee appetite for social tools is increasing: nearly half of respondents reported that social tools at work help increase their productivity, but more than 30 percent of organizations underestimate the value of these tools and often restrict their use.
The research also found distinct differences between countries, sectors, and genders as they relate to the levels of productivity, collaboration, and communication tools used in today’s workplace. Employees in the Asia-Pacific region were most likely to attribute higher productivity levels to the increased use of social tools, followed by Latin America and Europe. Employees in Latin America, however, were most likely to credit social tools with greater collaboration in the workplace, followed by the Asia-Pacific region and Europe.
Interestingly, the survey found that greater proportions of workers in Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region are using social tools — and with greater frequency. In contrast, those in North America and Europe have been slower to adopt many social tools.
Clearly, the defense and security market faces a unique set of circumstances when it comes to sharing and receiving data, specifically surrounding data security and privacy concerns. Seventy-two percent of government respondents said that their employer has restrictions on social tools due to security concerns. Yet through innovations in private/public clouds , secure unified communication , and technologies like Windows To Go , more possibilities are open to these users than ever before.
There is tremendous potential within the public sector to gain new information, insight, and efficiency by tapping into social enterprise tools. Montgomery County, Pennsylvania , is home to more than 800,000 residents and is the state’s third largest county. A single IT department provides support for more than 3,000 employees and 4,000 email accounts in 60 locations, representing every county agency. One-third of county employees work in the field, including health inspectors, building inspectors, road crews, and social service caseworkers.
The county was struggling with an aging messaging infrastructure, and its leadership needed a stable email environment with more advanced archiving and reliable data security that also reduced infrastructure and maintenance costs. They found this solution in Microsoft Office 365 , a subscription-based cloud offering that included Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Lync Online, and Yammer social networking in one package.
With its new messaging and collaboration solution in the cloud, Montgomery County enhanced its ability to respond quickly to requests and deliver services to its constituents. For example, by deploying more IT services to mobile devices, the county enabled sheriff’s deputies to serve warrants without having to come back to the office to retrieve paperwork, and many other county agencies began using Office 365 to enhance service delivery. And because Office 365 operates easily with mobile technologies, Montgomery County employees in any department can access their email and calendars from anywhere on any device with a consistent, familiar interface. In addition, the solution allowed the county’s data to be encrypted and stored in private data centers, addressing any potential security concerns.
As our Yammer teammates say, “ Change is the new constant.” As more organizations start to use social enterprise tools for sharing and communicating outside and inside their organizations, they will realize tremendous benefits in an always-changing world that celebrates team collaboration, employee engagement, organizational connectedness, and the flexibility required to react nimbly and quickly to citizen demands. We look forward to seeing what comes next.