Providing a successful customer experience is hard enough for many organizations, so it’s no wonder creating an equally rewarding and productive experience for employees can seem almost impossible. 

Yet, savvy business executives realize that a more collaborative, flexible work environment -- in which people can quickly identify and connect with expert resources, documents and other assets -- is essential to adopting a true social business model.

As we know, creating a social business requires more than just bringing consumer-style Web 2.0 tools in house. It means aligning people, processes and technology across the enterprise to streamline workflows, build engagement and collect, analyze and act upon insights surrounding the user experience.

The most successful internal CXM experiences incorporate multi-channel, contextual workflows that minimize distracting context switches while delivering relevant, real-time updates within the context of the task at hand.

Creating A Contextual Workflow

While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new social or collaborative application, it’s much harder to get these tools to work together. No matter how effective each may be at completing a single task, the lack of integration often forces users to toggle between several applications, cutting and pasting information from one interface into another to complete any given task.

A case in point: while working on a document, if you need to ask a follow up question to someone else’s comment, you toggle away from the document window and open email, VOIP or another communication tool to reach out to them. You may also need to look up their contact details and verify their availability, which may require you to open a third and fourth window.

Companies can reduce these inefficiencies by mapping workflows more closely to the way people actually work and creating a social context for each task. A contextual document workflow eliminates these constant switches by making it possible to check an editor’s availability and click to contact her, all from within the context of the working document.

Ultimately, the more that gets wrapped into a single context, the better -- and more efficient -- the user experience will be, provided it doesn’t become too complicated.

Naturally, companies can’t possibly create customized workflows for every task, nor should they. The key is to bring people, processes and technologies seamlessly together within a single context by embedding a standard set of social and collaboration tools within an already familiar, day-to-day work environment, like email, CRM system or on mobile devices.

Building context within familiar tools not only adds value, but also eases employees’ acceptance of new technologies. Change is never easy, but demonstrating real efficiency improvements and tangible value through the use of cool, new social features within familiar work environments gives people the confidence to learn to walk in the digital world before they are expected to run.

Flooding the Activity Stream

Activity streams as provided by newsfeeds and microblogging tools such as Twitter and Chatter were designed to deliver project or individual updates, without requiring the reader to toggle between multiple applications, or open individual messages to access and respond to them.

However, as we become more social, we can expect a deluge of messages to come streaming in across an ever-growing list of applications. Without a way to aggregate these updates into contextual flows, we will be overloaded by "streams of unconsciousness," just like we experience today on Twitter.

The Holy Grail is a single, contextual activity stream that provides project and task updates, while making it easy to focus on specific work streams. Simple mechanisms for doing this include hash tags and taxonomies, but enterprise-ready solutions will require more automated means.

For example, imagine receiving an email message addressed to a project team and responding to “all” would automatically generate a post to the group chat or wiki page rather than creating a slew of emails. Theoretically, this is possible. Realistically, it’s where the world is moving.

An Agile Evolution

Of course, agile workflows provide the best opportunity for companies to evolve strategically as they gather better intelligence and insights about how they work and what they need to accomplish in order to create contextual work scenarios.

As people break out of their information silos, the demand to work seamlessly across applications increases. It’s ineffective and unrealistic to expect one system to offer a one-stop-shop of native applications, widgets and shortcuts. Instead, it’s more efficient and practical to integrate social and collaboration tools with familiar applications and aggregate the activities of these multiple tools within a contextual interface.

If good customer experiences can’t exist without sophisticated employee infrastructures, organizations must look within to solve their most challenging customer experience issues. Building context into internal experience management platforms doesn’t just help employees become more effective. It also serves to empower them to respond quickly to market and customers’ demands.

Image courtesy of Roman Scherbakov (Shutterstock).

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