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Organizations need to rethink how they use digital collaboration technologies to help teams create products like sales proposals, product specifications and marketing plans.
With complex geographic distribution of workforces now the norm for many modern enterprises, companies need to consider seamlessly weaving digital-collaboration technologies and the applications that support them into their daily processes.
Manish Mehta, Alex Kass, and Gurdeep Virdi of Accenture Technology Labs explore the issues and opportunities around weaving social workflow into the fabric of everyday work.
For a team of people working in the same location on a simple project, little technology support may be required. But things become a little more challenging when the work effort is more complex and the teams are larger or more distributed.
The latest digital-collaboration technologies, like Chatter™, offer exciting new ways to help project teams share ideas, stay informed, and coordinate with each other. However, experience has shown that merely deploying these technologies is not usually sufficient to drive effective adoption or measurable impact, often because they are ‘added-on’ as opposed to integrated.
To get real value, therefore, organizations must imbed social technologies into business processes, making work itself more social and transforming social platforms from places to talk about work to actually doing it. This means that, rather than deploying collaboration technologies as a set of isolated channels, high-performing digital businesses need to embed these technologies seamlessly into their core business processes.
Traditional workflow engines generally work well to support large, heavyweight processes with many small or routine steps, by supporting the management and execution of a highly-structured process and shuttling documents around for content submission.
However, processes involved in creating more complex work products do not usually involve much traditional workflow. Such processes are more ad-hoc and the individual steps often require a lot of back-and-forth discussion.
With this in mind, we have coined the term ‘social workflow’ to define lightweight, flexible processes which involve a lot of social interaction between the participants.
The idea of social workflow is to integrate social technologies into the business applications used to execute the various steps in a process, and to structure the use of social channels in order to provide explicit support for the process. Although these processes cannot be driven by a simple, rigid workflow engine, they can benefit from a more flexible workflow which provides high-level guidance about major milestones.
Your organization can simplify the process of creating complex deliverables and encourage team collaboration across locations by mastering the concepts of social workflow and weaving social technologies into your everyday processes.
To help you with this, our Technology Labs team has collaborated with Salesforce.com, Inc.'s Chatter to develop a Team Coordination toolkit. This toolkit layers simple Social Workflows on the Chatter social collaboration platform. It integrates Chatter, Microsoft® Office, and Microsoft® SharePoint® into a social workflow suite.
Our Team Coordination toolkit consists of four, key components:
The social network: Chatter groups are defined for each project to support discussion of the work products being produced.
Social workflow and structured updates: Teams can easily announce progress through pre-defined and customizable steps in the workflow, and easily raise issues that have come up in a standardized, structured way without having to individually type every message. This is called structured updates.
Integration of social workflow into Microsoft® Office applications: The toolkit offers a plug-in that integrates collaboration directly into Microsoft® PowerPoint® (other Microsoft® Office applications are planned). It adds a sidebar that connects you and your team to all relevant social feeds about your organization, your team and your work.
Social integration into Microsoft® SharePoint® team site: The toolkit’s functionality also extends to a Microsoft® SharePoint® team site where you manage the team’s work in progress.
Accenture is a thought leader in turning great ideas into initiatives that generate real business benefit.
Contact us to learn how we can help your organization leverage social workflow.
May 6, 2013
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