Social business doesn't just mean broadcasting to customers over social networking sites. Collaboration tools get at the heart of what it means to be a social business, taking group connectivity deep into the company culture and converting siloed, offline communication habits into broadly shared asynchronous collaborations that keep everyone informed, invested, and empowered to drive the organization forward.
Depending on the size and structure of your company, the ideal social collaboration solution could be as simple as Basecamp or as robust as a deeply customized Salesforce deployment decked out with specialized add-ons that span every departmental function in your organization.
Here are a few key features to look for in a collaboration tool:
1. Project management - Even the smallest of teams will have a large number of complex projects to track. Everything your company does, from updating and maintaining your website to fulfilling a large order of widgets for a key client, should be shareable and trackable. And if a project involves key sales contacts, you'll want to be able to attach those contacts to relevant projects in a way that keeps your sales team apprised of important milestones and project details.
2. Contact management - CRM is a massive topic in its own right, and the best tools in CRM are now deeply social, aggregating key details about your customers and contacts from the social web to help your team spot important opportunities. But even if you're not deploying an enterprise-grade social CRM solution, your collaboration system should include the ability to tag and maintain contact information as it relates to ongoing projects.
3. Synchronous chat - More often than not, it will be the asynchronous features -- notes and messages, shared files, and status updates -- that drive your projects forward. However, when you do need to use real-time chat, it's ideal to be able to include multiple participants in a shared and archived forum that leaves a record of these important communications. That way you won't have critical business conversations vanish into the void.
4. Video conferencing - Face time means a lot, especially for colleagues who seldom see each other in the flesh. While you can always cobble together some video chats with a variety of miscellaneous tools, there's real value in having this capability integrated into a single collaboration toolset on which everyone uniformly relies.
5. Sharable whiteboard - Collaborating in real time means capturing input from multiple participants at once. While whiteboards aren't always essential, they can be incredibly valuable for teams that need to express ideas visually in synchronous work sessions.