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How social unlocks human potential

The first e-mail ever sent was in 1971 by Ray Tomlinson, the man who implemented the e-mail system himself. 30 years later virtually every business in the developed world was using e-mail as a primary communication system speeding up operational processes and our ability to communicate with thousands of people at once. Roll on another five years and the first tweet appeared back in 2006 sent by twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey.

Now however, things are rather different. In 2014, inboxes continue to pile up with unread e-mails affecting efficiency and productivity, at odds with the high-speed, real-time ways of working demanded by customers, clients and millennials. Particularly the latter, youthful generation is less reliant on e-mail, instead preferring communication platforms such as instant messenger, Snapchat, video and Facebook. Increasingly, universities are using collaborative platforms to engage with students, so when young and talented graduates join a company, they are surprised that the technology and culture isn’t in place to facilitate teamwork, remote working and virtual teams as readily as possible. This is forcing senior execs to re-think how their organisation communicates and embraces collaboration.

As Gartner eloquently points out we are now in the era of the ‘business consumer – an employee for whom business activities are one part of a wider lifestyle’, challenging conventional workplace wisdoms. Gartner’s concept is that people don’t stop being consumers when they enter the workplace, instead they continue to make consumer-like choices about the way they work and have high expectations of workplace technology. Employees are digitally literate and so social networks and social modes of communication and collaboration are infiltrating their working habits. In short, the business consumer needs a flexible, digital workplace – and companies should be accommodating these needs to remain competitive and productive.

We anticipated this trend at Atos embarking upon our ‘journey to zero’ back in 2011, looking to significantly reduce the number of e-mails sent by employees per day, and adopting new ways of working, focused on innovative and collaborative technologies. It has required a huge cultural shift and adaptation for us all – but we’ve reaped the benefits. With the rise of enterprise social networking platforms like blueKiwi, virtual meetings, chat and document sharing tools, businesses are set to transform how they communicate and work across previously siloed departments and virtual teams.

It’s these social networks and communications platforms which hold the key to unlocking our true potential – enabling us to share knowledge widely, find the right experts both internally and externally, and work across diverse teams regardless of borders, cultures and functions to drive innovation and foster creativity.

The era of the business consumer is about empowering and connecting people, offering them a platform that allows them to communicate and collaborate most effectively and in a way that makes sense for them. Digital is clearly the future; through people’s use of social media and new ways of working, we can truly unlock employees’ potential and transform the way we do business.

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About Marc Bovens

Marc has worked within the IT industry for over 25 years. As a business technologist and consultant he was involved in the development and deployment of logistic and financial systems in Europe, Taiwan and Japan. As regional CIO and CTO Marc has advised industry teams with the required technology expertise to develop new markets and accounts. More recently he has led the Atos Zero email program and is now responsible for social collaboration and knowledge sharing in Atos. He lives in Belgium with his wife and two children.