An organization should always create opportunities for employees and employers to share information freely, making solutions constantly available. A previous blog titled, “Enterprise Q&A – the first social initiative within an organization,” discusses social enterprise Q&A functionality. Q&A communities and social businesses serve important purposes for their respective organizations and are an increasingly essential part of the collaborative process. There are various types of systems and communities which help users to collaborate and problem–solve by focusing solely on Q&A, or by conducting business according to requirements by their host companies. Q&A and social business communities have specific, distinguishing characteristics. Understanding these differences will help companies decide which type of functionality will suit their organization best.
Q&A and social business communities can be distinguished by their structure and function. The purpose of a Q&A community is to facilitate problem solving. Its structure provides fast, efficient ways to discover solutions. Q&A communities such as stackoverflow attract audiences from the tech industry, and allow users to ask questions, vote on answers, tag topics and earn badges for their participation. In a similar way, Senexx SolvePath is a Q&A community that is specifically designed to promote knowledge sharing and problem solving within an organization. Social businesses like Yammer are structured similarly to Facebook, as environments where members can keep others up to date. They include features such as live chat, file sharing, and status updates. Unlike Facebook, however, Yammer is focused solely on connecting people who are interested in doing business together (either from the same company or with outside connections). Although these features promote a collaborative environment, they are not directly intended for problem solving in the same way as a Q&A community. Instead of users directly responding to questions, they post information sources which may contain answers; for example, this information could include other relevant material to the company or industry.
Both Q&A and social business communities are important tools that companies can utilize to create a knowledge-sharing environment. Deciding which type of community is most suitable for an organization depends on the goals of that organization. The following guidelines summarize under which circumstances a company should seek either a social business or a Q&A community. A social business is the best solution for a company when:
- Company goals involve opening up communication channels so employees and employers can address specific issues, update others on progress, and upload files for the business community to view.
- The organization seeks to develop new management systems, evaluate company products, and interact with customers.
- Members of an organization wish to share ideas or conduct business in real-time.
A Q&A community, on the other hand, is most beneficial to an organization when:
- The organization wishes to house a community that facilitates quick solution finding and information usage by allowing users to ask questions and tag the best responses.
- Employees and employers need to quickly find and follow the most qualified experts.
- Problem solving is best achieved by open information sharing.
Overall, it is important to understand the differences and benefits that each type of community can bring to the work environment so organizations can improve their knowledge-sharing and problem-solving capabilities.
- (2012). What Is Social Business? http://www.socialbusinessforum.com/what-is-social-business/
- Kiron, D, et al. (2011). What Makes a Social Business “Social?” http://sloanreview.mit.edu/improvisations/2011/10/28/what-makes-a-social-business-social/#.ULxqTqzOkVM