How social tools can reshape the organization.
Not all social technologies bring equal benefits. Survey respondents say the most valuable tools make it easier for employees to collaborate—and could even transform the way organizations work
While social technologies have become ubiquitous in business, not all tools—or the benefits companies see from their use—are created equal. Indeed, results from McKinsey’s latest survey on social tools suggest that a new generation of tools is enabling employees to collaborate in improved and innovative ways.1 Respondents say improved internal communication is the feature of social tools that has most benefited their businesses. They also expect that, in the coming years, enabling better communication will be one of the ways these tools could bring about fundamental changes at their organizations.
The results also suggest that social tools play a critical role in how technology overall can encourage organizational change. We asked executives about their companies’ use of social tools, digital technologies, and big data in 18 different business processes; the clear consensus is that using social begets better use of these other technologies. When organizations digitize a process’s work flow (which happens most often
with customer-facing processes), respondents say that using social tools in that same process has enabled their companies’ overall digital efforts. What’s more, some executives report greater benefits— decreased costs and increased productivity, for example—if they digitize and use social tools in a given process. Several benefits are greater still if the company uses data collected from social interactions among employees and with customers.
A new generation of social tools Executives report that the business use of social tools is nearly universal. Ninety-three percent of respondents say their companies use at least one social technology, continuing an upward trend (82 percent said so in the previous two surveys).2 And most respondents say employees at their companies use at least one tool on mobile devices. In addition, 74 percent say social tools are at least somewhat integrated into employees’ work—up from 67 percent in the past two years.
Although social technologies are more and more commonplace, the results suggest that not all tools are created equal. Specifically, those that can enable collaboration among employees are the most valued— increasingly important, since 80 percent of executives, up from 69 percent in 2014, say their companies use these tools for internal purposes.
When asked about the most beneficial features of the social tools their companies use, respondents most often cite real-time interactions, the ability to collaborate with specific groups, and cross-platform availability (Exhibit 1). What’s more, respondents believe the same three features will most improve how people work at their organizations in the future.
View Exhibits 1to 6