Companies across the globe have embraced social networks to improve internal communications, promote brand identity, and connect with consumers, partners, and vendors. Platforms as diverse in reach as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Confluence, and Slack each pose a unique touchpoint for a company to convey and reinforce its core message to employees and consumers. Given the ubiquity of social media, it’s natural that ERP systems are evolving to integrate with these channels to drive productivity and enhance customer experience.
Evolution of Enterprise Social Networks
Over the past decade, technology platforms have trended toward making social network and core business function integration a reality. Companies believe that social media integration and internal social network development, when used properly, can massively boost employee productivity. The concept entails moving Web 2.0 tools such as instant messaging and wikis into business process platform to help employees, partners, customers and stakeholders work together to create threads, discussions, or channels where people with common interests can collaborate and quickly share information.
Concurrently, the adoption and reach of social networks worldwide has grown to a massive scale. This interconnectivity is making it easier for business professionals to find each other – whether they like it or not. Support reps respond to comments and complaints on their company’s Facebook page. Salespeople looking for prospects send InMails to their professional network on LinkedIn. Recruiters looking for their next hires broadcast their job postings across each channel they are a member of. HR reps decide to hire – or fire – based on posts from employees’ personal accounts.
It’s natural, then, that companies would want to integrate social media functionality directly into their ERP solutions, making day-to-day collaborative tasks easier, and drawing upon the wealth of data already stored in their platform. Many ERP vendors are developing functionality that can deliver benefits of Enterprise 2.0 along with built-in Web 2.0 technologies. Embedding a host of innovative features, such as conversation feeds, activity feeds, and chatbots into ERP applications, opens up exciting new possibilities in the realm of ERP software development.
Potential for Social Integration in ERP Beyond Collaborative Tools
Incorporating the social media profiles and history of your prospects and clients directly into your ERP system can be a powerful sales and customer service tool that few ERP platforms offer, and few companies currently utilize.
However, the use cases for for social media integration with ERP are endless. Consider this – if you’re in a sales cycle with a prospect, your rep has likely already connected with them on social platforms. One day while browsing social media, you notice that your prospect has made connections at a competitor. Having noticed this, you have the opportunity to intervene before the deal potentially goes awry.
Now… how cool would it be if your CRM noticed this trend for you in real-time, and sent you an alert as it happened?
A second use case for social media in ERP is unifying the customer experience across all channels and touchpoints – coined the ‘omnichannel’ shopping experience by the retail and tech communities. In the retail industry, as a larger percentage of sales shift to mobile platforms, attracting, closing, and creating repeat buying engagements in a saturated marketplace gets progressively more difficult. Social integration with ERP can help with all three – attracting, closing, and creating repeat engagements – but will be most beneficial to retailers in the realm of post-sale customer engagement.
What if you went to your favorite apparel store, entered your Instagram handle at checkout, and the store’s order management system could message you truly customized discounts, deals, and special offers based on in-store purchase history and Instagram likes?
Finally – many companies open up their social media comments to customers, who sometimes use them to deliver positive feedback, but more commonly use them to report customer support issues. Companies often employ support reps to monitor these channels and follow up manually with each disgruntled customer.
What if your ERP system could link each Facebook comment back to your customer database, and set automatic follow-ups to your Support team? Even better, what if your ERP could find prospects complaining on competitors’ pages, find their company info on LinkedIn, and send your sales team alerts to follow up?
A Thoughtful Approach to the Adoption of Social Elements
The potential of social media adoption to enhance collaborative and communication capabilities is substantial, if executed correctly. Gartner predicts that 50 percent of large organizations will have internal Facebook-like social networks by the end of 2016, and 30 percent of these social networks will be considered as essential to business productivity as email and telephones.
It’s common for companies to move quickly on an investment in social media and social network platforms without properly thinking through their adoption strategy. Companies move quickly on social network purchases for two reasons – the first being that the cost and implementation time of social media platforms relative to a purchase like an ERP system are low, and the second being that social networks are seen as a way for a company to relate to the working style of millennial employees, who grew up using social platforms. Hasty purchasing decisions sometimes result in organizations implementing multiple collaborative solutions – with each department of the company using a different platform of choice – and end up with a hairball of social media solutions each with low adoption, poor engagement, and low enthusiasm.
As stated by Gartner, social initiatives differ from traditional ERP deployments in that workers engage with social media platforms in a “pull” approach, as opposed to traditional business software deployments that are “pushed” onto employees. The “pull” approach – or any approach where an employee has to opt-in – rarely sees 100% adoption amongst a workforce. However, given that traditional ERP systems are deployed internally with a “push” approach, an integrated social media platform would automatically be adopted by all ERP end users, ensuring maximum employee utilization and uniformity.
If integrating collaborative tools with your ERP is not an option, instead consider subscribing to a social platform that offers multiple functions – for example, wiki pages, chat, and a social feed – instead of multiple point solutions each specializing in one social function. Similar to the headache solved when selecting a suite in place of point solutions to manage core business functions, a single social platform will unify intercompany communications and ensure company-wide platform adoption.
Social Platforms and Roadmap Wrap-Up
For years, organizations have been adopting external social media tools to increase collaboration between internal stakeholders and customers. To achieve maximum returns on productivity from social networks, employers should consider purchasing social media tools that integrate directly with their core business software – and ERP vendors should beef up their current integrated social offerings. A simple way for ERP developers to make social media integration purposeful and effective is to embed, at a minimum, conversation feeds and activity feeds into their ERP applications.
Social media and ERP integration as deep as outlined in the use cases above may not hit the software scene for years – but your vendor’s roadmap for social integration is something to consider when making your next ERP investment.
How important is ERP and social platform integration to you?