What would you say if someone offered you the opportunity to free up as much as 25% of the work week for more productive purposes? Would you be willing to explore this further or would you discount it out of hand as wishful thinking? What if the source of this claim was the McKinsey Global Institute, the management consulting firm’s research organization?
The McKinsey Global Institute has just released a new study, The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies, that examines the potential impact of social technologies in four sectors: consumer packaged goods, retail financial services, advanced manufacturing, and professional services. This report makes the sit-up-and-take-notice claim that these technologies “could potentially contribute $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in annual value across the four sectors.”
That’s a lot of zeroes worth of added value. In fact, the study estimates that “by fully implementing social technologies, companies have an opportunity to raise the productivity of interaction workers—high-skill knowledge workers, including managers and professionals—by 20 to 25 percent.”
For those of you tend to skip over claims like this, I’d encourage you to back up and take another look since one of the sectors examined in the study is the professional services sector. That includes your law firm. If you were to read the report from the perspective of a legal professional services firm, what might you learn? Here are some money quotes from the study’s abstract:
Two-thirds of this potential value lies in improving collaboration and communication within and across enterprises. The average interaction worker spends an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing e-mail and nearly 20 percent looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. But when companies use social media internally, messages become content; a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35 percent, the time employees spend searching for company information. Additional value can be realized through faster, more efficient, more effective collaboration, both within and between enterprises.
The amount of value individual companies can capture from social technologies varies widely by industry, as do the sources of value. Companies that have a high proportion of interaction workers can realize tremendous productivity improvements through faster internal communication and smoother collaboration.
To reap the full benefit of social technologies, organizations must transform their structures, processes, and cultures: they will need to become more open and nonhierarchical and to create a culture of trust. Ultimately, the power of social technologies hinges on the full and enthusiastic participation of employees who are not afraid to share their thoughts and trust that their contributions will be respected. Creating these conditions will be far more challenging than implementing the technologies themselves.
I’m betting that the law firm that masters social technologies would be a very attractive place to work. I’m also betting it could attract the high-performing knowledge workers it needs to be hugely successful. McKinsey calls the potential impact of social technologies in the enterprise “transformative.” Have you considered what these technologies could do for your firm?
[Photo Credit: Mark Smiciklas]