by Shubhra Rishi

#NewAgeBusiness: CIOs Leverage Social Media

Jan 15, 201412 mins

Four Indian businesses decide to stop merely talking about social media and do something with it. Their stories show you what you could be missing out on.

People power. It’s hard to go anywhere in the country today without bumping into it. You start the day with the newspapers giving you a blow-by-blow account of how everyday people are joining Aam Aadmi Party and are taking the power back from politicians. You end your day with citizen journalists on TV commandeering the power of the media.

And, in between, you have Gen Y consumers and staffers demanding a greater say and fewer controls.

If you thought the command-and-control structure of the enterprise would keep you safe from the swarms calling for the end of centralized authority (as they are doing with politics and the fourth estate), you were wrong. Or, at least, you’ll be wrong soon. Never in the past has the work   place been so diverse. Today’s place of work is increasingly becoming a sundry mix of the young, the middle-aged and the old. And it’s leaving businesses perplexed. Companies are worried about how they will manage such a wide assortment of expectations. A PwC survey reveals that attracting and keeping young workers is one of the biggest talent challenges for CEOs everywhere—and it should be. Millennials—those born in between 1980 to 2000—will account for over half of the global workforce by 2020.

Yet their growing needs are driving CIOs up the wall. Take for instance, social media and BYOD. The two trends have jointly twisted the arm of enterprise IT to get rid of longstanding practices of restrict-and-control and are introducing an environment of collaboration and engagement to cater to a young workforce. While a number of progressive CIOs have latched on to the BYOD trend, they have not leveraged social as much.

Not all CIOs see the rise of social media as a pain. A growing number see an untapped opportunity. According to CIO research (The Mid-Year Review Survey done in March 2013) about 40 percent of Indian CIOs were in the process of finalizing enterprise social collaboration platforms, many of which aim to mimic public networks such as Facebook. Another 20 percent said, it would take them about 12 months—about two months from now. According to the State of the CIO Survey (taken three months ago), a full 37 percent of Indian CIOs say that they are either implementing or already refining their organizations’ social media push.

Some CIOs have upgraded corporate intranets and My Site Microsoft SharePoint   (a webspace where people from an organization can find information about another’s skills and interests) to accommodate social tools such as Lync and Chatter for internal collaboration. Others have tapped into external public networks such as Facebook and professional networks such as LinkedIn to drive business and increase internal efficiency. If you’re looking for ways in which your companies and your IT teams can tap the power of social media for business benefit, here are four. Deeper Customer Engagement Myntra It’s no secret that a number of e-commerce portals in India use social media platforms to increase brand awareness and to promote their products using online campaigns. Myntra is no exception to the rule. According to Myntra, it is one of India’s top three e-commerce companies and it is the fastest growing fashion retailer in the country. Myntra, however, went one step further: It integrated its internal CRM with Facebook.

Till a year ago, Facebook contributed to 25 percent of Myntra’s revenues. According to press reports, Myntra made Rs 400 crore in 2012-2013. That number has since dipped but mainly because the company’s organic traffic has grown extensively, but it’s still a significant two-digit figure, says Shamik Sharma, CIO and chief product officer at Myntra, who closely and frequently partners with marketing and customer care LoBs to provide them with better tools to create maximum customer engagement.

With over 1.6 million fans on its Facebook page, Myntra saw an opportunity to get closer to its consumers and create customer delight. To do that, the company encouraged its users to log on to Myntra (using their Facebook credentials). At that point Myntra asks users whether they would like to share information that’s currently on Facebook with Myntra. These includes something as innocuous as their e-mail ID and their public profile, to other more intimate details like their friends’ list, their likes, their relationships, their hometown and interests.

As a result, the e-commerce player is now able to get a fuller picture of their customers. It allows Myntra to analyze customer behavior and gain deeper insights into what they should be selling consumers.

This customer information is channeled automatically into the company’s CRM platform and mined on a per order basis to find out if there’s any correlation with a specific order and customer information Myntra already has on a customer. For instance, if a customer had logged on to Myntra using Facebook and placed an order close to her birthday or anniversary, the company would send them little gifts wishing them on their special day. “Facebook data helps us form that close connection with customers and that, according to me, our biggest reward,” says Sharma.

The company is also in the process of rolling out a CRM cloud service to its customer touch-points (like its customer care center) which will help organizations deliver superior customer experience at every contact and across every channel.

“The ultimate goal,” Sharma says, “is to integrate with all of our social media networks and use it as a common platform to assist our agents monitor and respond to customer appreciation, query or grievance.”

An IDC prediction for next year states that the demographic shift to young and mobile customers will require 80 percent of CIOs in B2C businesses to integrate IT with public social networks by 2015, and Sharma is sprinting ahead.

Opening a New Customer Channel ICICI Bank It’s extremely rare to see banks embark on anything social—or even talk about it. But ICICI has always done the unexpected and its social media push is the latest in a series of unexpected offerings for the young gen.  

Launching an initiative known as Pockets for Facebook, the bank empowered its young fan base—40 percent of which is under 34—to carry out transactions on Facebook. The app requires a user—who also needs to be an ICICI customer—to log on to her Facebook account and then on to Pockets and perform a one-time registration by entering her debit card number and pin. Further on, the app appears on a customer’s Facebook page and can be used to view accounts, make payments, transfer funds, and conduct other non-banking transactions.

“Facebook is where young consumers are spending more and more time and the app enables them to carry out a wide set of transactions without having to leave the social media site,” says Abonty Banerjee, GM and head-Digital, ICICI Bank.

The app’s unique feature Split ‘n’ Share allows ICICI customers to divide and track group expenses and share them with friends on the site. If for example, you went out to the movies with friends and wanted to divvy up expenses later, Split ‘n’ Share would allow you to inform your friends how much they owed you.

Another feature called Pay a Friend allows users to transfer funds to their friends without having to know their bank account details.

If this sounds simple, Banerjee says, that security is of utmost importance and the bank sensitizes customers at every step of their Pockets’ journey, stating that the application is completely safe to use as all types of authentications and transactions are carried out on ICICI Bank’s secured servers. And even if a user’s Facebook account is compromised, it still does not affect her her personal financial information and bank user ID. Banerjee went on to add that Pockets is as safe as their internet banking channel.

For an initiative that’s only two-and-a-half-months-old, the results have been extremely encouraging, says Sujit Ganguli, senior general manager and head corporate communications and brand at ICICI Bank. The project was jointly ventured by IT and marketing teams. They are also constantly collecting feedback from early adopters to further provide a more seamless experience to customers.

Primarily, the main objective, says Banerjee, is to be present in all channels and get on new channels before others. Further, the per-transaction cost for the bank is lower on digital channels compared to other traditional channels. Invariably, the bank’s larger goal is to attract newer, younger customers through this initiative.

Leveraging Internal Talent Applied Materials Applied Materials is a semiconductor manufacturer with a global presence (over 84 locations in 18 countries.) There’s no dearth of innovative ideas within its 13,700-strong employee base and it has over 10,000 patents to prove it.

With such a diverse workforce employed across different continents, the global manufacturer decided it needed to leverage enterprisewide social media tools to increase internal collaboration across its multiple team teams and business segments. It also wanted to tap into the minds of its thousands of employees.  

“As a global initiative, we developed an internal crowdsourcing and social innovation platform known as Ideabuilder, to improve productivity and customer satisfaction,” says Nagraj Bhat, senior director, Global Information Services Group, Applied Materials India.

In 2012, the company also rolled out a knowledge management portal known an Applied Rapid Knowledge that enabled field engineers to search and find product documentation across multiple data sources through a single interface. It was an important project given how dispersed the company was globally.

As a result, the project singlehandedly reduced their search time by 50 percent.

Startling results like that created an excitement around the possibility of social media within the enterprise and soon Applied Materials’ global HR department requested its IT team to conduct a pilot and give a small group of employees the ability to upload their LinkedIn profiles to the company’s internal HR management portal. The company also noticed that a majority of its employees already had public LinkedIn profiles, so the capability to integrate LinkedIn to the HR talent profile seemed like a potential time-saver in terms of building a better employee profile.

“For instance, an employee had the option to create a professional job profile on the HR platform from scratch or better still, by connecting his LinkedIn profile. In turn, the HR team was able to facilitate, to an extent, the buildup of internal talent profiles of their employees and identify opportunities for internal employees and potential candidates for expanded global reach,” says Bhat.

Applied Materials isn’t alone in its push to derive more value from its employees. According to Nishant K. Rao, country manager, LinkedIn India, companies are quickly realizing the power of their internal employee base and leveraging the integration capabilities of external tools to enable a seamless hiring experience.

Creating Social Collaboration Tata Communications If you belong to the Tata Group and operate as one of its 450,000 employees across its 100 companies worldwide, it would be easy to be lost. Given the size of the group (it’s got as many people as a small Indian town) it’s easy for different groups within companies to never see each other, or communicate less than optimal. Therefore, four years ago, when a global initiative demanded a need to change old ways of connecting within the conglomerate, there were challenges.

“Change management within IT was a daunting task,” says Rajiv Nandwani, VP-IT at Tata Communications. Another challenge was choosing the right platform at a time when social media platforms were becoming extremely popular and IT was expected to deliver quickly and cater to the requirements of young, new-age employees.

One of the ways the that company decided to do that was to connect and allow its huge workforce to collaborate by integrating existing Exchange, SharePoint Lync and Chatter solutions. The entire initiative took nine months at the end of which the efficiency of the company’s disparate work groups spiked. “The initiation to the process wasn’t driven by IT but by our employees who wanted us to intervene and deliver connectivity,” says Nandwani. The entire initiative has ensured cost savings for the entire group as well as improved collaboration across the company, and has also created better results on projects that require the collaboration of cross-functional teams.

As an added HR incentive, the company provided the opportunity for its employees to update their Share Point status updates on each individual’s personal LinkedIn profile. Additionally, each LinkedIn profile could be displayed on every user’s My Site profile.

Alternately, users could choose to add a link to their LinkedIn profile as well.

Nandwani says that the company keeps adding new functionalities to the collaboration platform. Recently, for example, the company invited a number of partners to collaborate on Lync. They have also allowed the integration of Skype with Lync and allow staffers to communicate with external customers, an important functionality in a shrinking world. 

To those who would like to go down this route, LinkedIn’s Rao suggests that companies need to identify the right metrics to measure the business benefits of leveraging an external social platform internally. He also says that while change management will be harder, companies can ensure a better candidate experience and enable team efficiency and productivity. Using social media, enterprises can pick up intelligence or collaborate and all this is making the CIO role even more important. Therefore, to decide whether you want to get stuck in the rut of firefighting or get on the next wave of business, the choice is yours.

As history show, the people will get what they want. It’s only a question of time.    Shubhra Rishi is senior correspondent. Send feedback on this feature to