Social, Mobile & Business Success: a #NokiaWorld panel debate

I was lucky enough to attend Nokia World with work this year. In between writing communications content on the long-awaited Nokia Lumia 800, the first handset running Windows Phone Mango, it was great to sit in on some of the presentations and debates that were going on around the ExCel centre. ‘Business without barriers’ captured my attention immediately as I’m all for finding out how to operate globally from a cultural and linguistic perspective, but the rest of the title ‘exploring what social and mobile means to business success’ meant it was too good to miss.

Chairing the panel was Ellen Levy, VP of Strategic Initiatives at Linkedin. She not only very astutely summarised Linkedin’s business proposition, but also demonstrated her ‘InMap’ – a feature of the Linkedin labs that I’ve been experimenting with lately. What stood out for me was that there are over 120 million ‘self-registered’ users on Linkedin. Self-registered! People are actively signing themselves up and sharing their professional information. For me it’s a behavioural shift – in broad terms, we are now more open and more willing to share information, be it news articles or our school graduation year.

But what does that mean in a business context? To aid the discussion, William Kennedy from Microsoft, Adam Warby from Avanade, Loic Le Meur from Seesmic and Martin Chadban from Vodafone took to the stage for a lively 30 minutes. William rightly set out that when you put business and social together, hundreds, if not thousands, of people get scared. But why? As stated in a recent Special Report in The Economist, the business world is now looking to consumer technology to improve productivity and working lives, and social media or social tools are a part of those. We’ve gotten used to tools that cater to our desire to share in our personal lives (Facebook & Twitter), so why can’t they come into the workplace?

The panel continued, almost being engulfed by ‘the desktop is dead’ debate, but what stood out for me was Loic’s poignant point that everything takes longer in enterprise than it does in consumer innovation. Indeed, when it comes to installing social tools on mobile and computing devices, there are numerous security issues to consider, however I would argue that with my generation’s sense of immediacy and openness when it comes to information and sharing, this needs to change. And fast. Granted I’m early in my career and I remember learning early on in economics that keeping information secret is rule number 1 for success in the financial markets, but I believe that as society is moving to this ‘sharing’ mentality, in a business context we need to have the ability to cater to this.

So what exactly does social and mobile mean for business success? In my opinion social and mobile together represents a behavioural and mindset shift that has resulted in the need for:

  • Instant gratification
  • Increased sharing of ideas, documents and media
  • Flexible work standards
For businesses this means adapting to fulfil these needs. How can the workplace provide instant gratification; what tools can be introduced to allow for increased sharing, and how can managers equip their workforce for flexible working? The answers (in my opinion): short term targets within long term goals, using tools such as Salesforce and Outlook communicator and providing mobiles and tablets to allow for better working.
It was a very interesting session and I’ve left feeling buzzed and excited that businesses might need to start moulding themselves to fit how we have developed socially as consumers. Combined with the increased blur between working and social lives, it’s an exciting time ahead to be working in technology. Thank you to Ellen and the panel for stimulating a lively debate to round out the first day at Nokia World.
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