According to a recent McKinsey Report office workers spend an average of 28 hours a week writing emails, searching for information and collaborating internally. Most of us prefer to use email rather than actually speak to a colleague, resulting in companies like Debenhams having to store 13.8 million new emails a month – a figure that’s increasing 20% year on year.
Social collaboration tools have been around for a long time – so why aren’t we all using them?
Clinked.com, a UK-based business collaboration start-up, has just published an infographic (below) highlighting the fact that 75% of businesses say online collaboration tools will be “important” or “somewhat important” to their business during the next 12 months.
Clinked’s founder, Tayfun Bilsel, says his team has noticed a shift in attitudes during 2012:
“We used to spend half our time educating clients about the benefits of social collaboration. These days, businesses are approaching us with clearly defined strategies for reducing overheads and connecting remote working teams. The market has grown up.”
Earlier this year Aaron Levie, CEO of Box.com, described described having a similar experience. He’s on record saying that start-ups offering freemium, cloud-based solutions that work across mobile have “exploded the size of the [enterprise collaboration] market”. Box.com itself recently took another $125m in investment.
It’s a rapidly emerging industry, and as Forrester reported in a recent White Paper: “there is a real and growing market demand for these tools”.
So why is social business collaboration finally taking off? And why now?
Well, there’s the recession, which is forcing businesses to do more with less. This might include getting rid of the office and relying on shared working spaces for collaboration. Tayfun Bilsel is convinced that it’s a factor in Clinked’s recent growth: “in the current climate, having home-workers makes sense, but you need the collaborative infrastructure in place to make it work”.
With more than 1 billion people actively using Facebook, we’ve also become more familiar with news feeds, activity streams and @mentions. These are common features of enterprise social networks and our familiarity with them makes social networking at work more appealing.
It’s also true that the tools themselves have got better. Many of them integrate with Google Drive, offer seamless synching with Google and Outlook calendars, have mobile apps and provide secure document storage. They are usually easy to set up and come with simple monthly bills.
When you think about it, it’s no wonder businesses are finally taking to online collaboration.