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As businesses become more social, collaboration is becoming the most critical competitive business advantage. An company that is more collaboratively efficient isn’t just more nimble, by applying collective intelligence it can innovate faster. Social enterprises are changing the rules for employees. New tools help break down disjoined internal barriers, giving employees more contextual control. This new contextualization empowers people to interact naturally in a way that makes sense to them, supported by internal systems – as opposed to systems that mandate unnatural behaviors that force people to interact in a way that seems very impersonal and removed. As our businesses become more complex, it’s key to humanize our approach in everything we do.

Earlier this month, I got a chance to sit down and chat with Blaine Mathieuthe, CEO of contract management software firm Selectica. I was intrigued, because Selectia provides solutions for companies that have complex contracting environments (Cisco, IBM, MillerCoors and Xerox, to name a few). If you think about it, the legalities that thread together everything we do serve as the foundation for peak operational performance. While legal operations may seem like a small part of the bigger picture, the outcomes and ramifications of poor decisiosn at this level can stunt profitability and prevent full participation in the collaborative economy. According to Blaine, his largest challenge is “taking something as intricate as contract management and looking at how people interact in order to help them work more efficiently.” Given my belief in humanizing processes and procedures in all we do, this immediately resonated with me.

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Our conversation expanded from there to how one grows a company to a position of global collaborative leadership through people, process and technology. Blaine explained that many of the tools used today by social enterprises take the best aspects of accessibility and ease of usage from social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. “If employees are able to follow projects and people, it will ultimately streamline the working process, it’s that simple. The ultimate goal for any company is to work across company silos in order to perform and complete larger tasks on scale with ease.”

Digitizing a previously traditional process like contract management to emulate offline human interactions and systems is no small task, Blaine said.

“Ultimately, it’s about empowering the employees to run systems themselves. It’s not a robot that will do tasks for them. At the end of the day, people are negotiating and communicating with people. That can’t be automated. Systems and technology are simply a protector to empower them to do that more freely and easily. More importantly, people need to know when they’re crossing one of these constraints or boundaries that they wouldn’t know otherwise.”

Think of the sheer size and volume of the collaborative environments and outdated systems currently used in corporate America – notably, email. Email is now the dinosaur when it comes to collaboration. It may have been the go-to tool for working Boomers, but those now graduating from college are used to working in “real time”; email looks sluggish next to text and chat. These kids grew up as active participants in the social revolution. To them, a communication sits there, waiting for someone to check it (if they decide to check it at all) doesn’t fall under the definition of real time.

This next generation of business professionals will change corporate culture, shifting the cultural concept of social collaboration, forcing organizations to adapt this new bottom-up system. “We will see CEO’s demand these new tools into their company and create change so that everyone is adapting at the same rate. Fifteen years from now, we will look back and laugh at the old ways of email, ‘once upon a time’ being a collaborative tool,” Blaine predicted confidently.

Facing changes like this are daunting yet doable, but integration is only as good as its preparation and planning. This is especially true when clients enter into new technology relationships expecting their new systems to be running within a week. The secret is, technology isn’t the greatest obstacle to successful social collaboration change; the biggest challenge is understanding human behavior as a baseline – specifically the human behavior of your corporate culture – then designing new systems that fit this behavior in order to increase its chance of adoption. It becomes, in essence, a mission to understand a company’s internal behavior and adopting actions, interactions and gamification models to fit that internal behavior — not the other way around.

As Blaine put it simply, these changes are focused on cloud, mobile, and real time interaction as the next wave of “seamless user-friendly collaboration.” Jeremiah Owyang, CEO of Crowd Companies, said something similar, backing Blaine’s approach that “it’s about integrating the offline world with the online into a seamless interaction. This is the new Sharing Economy.”

KEY TAKEAWAY: By having full transparency from the inside out, we are enabling the long-term adoption of true employee advocacy, collaborative communication and brand humanization. Now is the time for business to walk the talk and become social business by taking cues from the next wave of working professionals and investing in more efficient, human ways to work together.

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Bryan Kramer is a social business strategist and CEO of marketing agency PureMatter, named one of Silicon Valley’s fastest-growing private companies by the Silicon Valley Business Journal. His recent accomplishments include authoring the book “Human to Human #H2H.” This story originally appeared on his blog at BryanKramer.com. He is followed by over 200k combined social media followers and is a frequent speaker on the social and marketing circuits.

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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