Circa 2014, as we catalog in our enterprise collaboration and social software vendor evaluation research , the use cases for social-collaboration software inside the enterprise are more or less well understood.
The short story is that some new use cases (e.g., Social Q&A) are possible and some older use cases (e.g., Expertise Location) can be turbo-charged. However, what’s still not as well understood -- and hence not leveraged effectively -- is the intersection of mobile devices and enterprise social networks.
To be sure, almost all the social-collaboration vendors we evaluate offer some sort of mobile capabilities (not to do so circa 2014 makes you an ostrich) – be it a mobile-friendly version of the web application, native apps for popular mobile platforms, or a cross-platform hybrid app.
But in almost all cases, the underlying assumption is that the mobile version plays the supporting role for the web application. In many contexts, that’s a reasonable assumption to make, since many enterprises only seek to mobile-enable a subset of the overall functionality.
Even though this offers an improvement over the status quo, there is a perhaps a better way to think about the mobile strategy for your enterprise social network.
In the scenario described above, you are catering to your employees who are primarily desk-bound, mobile-enabling them for those occasions when they are away from their desks.
But what about those employees whose jobs do not require them to be tethered to a desk – think field force agents, airline crews, retail industry workers – they all work for large organizations but they may only access their laptops very infrequently. Since their face-to-face interactions with their colleagues elsewhere can be rather limited, it is all the more imperative that you leverage a mobile social network to increase organizational cohesiveness and reinforce the culture. In such cases, you want to consider a mobile-first social network. You’ll likely emphasize a different set of use cases, and will want to re-think "engagement" in this context.
Being strategic about mobile-enabling your workforce involves categorizing your employees based on their primary interaction device – desktop/laptop or tablet/phone. You can then establish the appropriate objectives and relevant use-cases for each of these segments separately. Such an exercise may reveal that the key objective for the desk segment is productivity while for the mobile segment it is both productivity and engagement.
So, you may prioritize “file sharing” and syncing-across devices for the desk-segment while for the mobile-segment you may implement group messaging services and video-streaming to get them clued-in to the remote mothership.
To summarize: I am not (yet) advocating a drastic mobile-first for the entire enterprise, but do consider seizing the opportunities for a mobile-first social network.
PS: If you have not already done so, please spare a few minutes and participate in our survey on social-collaboration software.