Social media is everywhere. The term has been used and overused to describe everything from sharing photos to telling your life story 140 characters at a time. But lately, we’ve seen what’s being called “social media tools” working their way into all aspects of the business world as a phrase used to describe companies improving how they operate and collaborate.
The key aspects of social media as they apply to the business world (outside of marketing your company via Facebook or Twitter) are the themes of sharing, giving and receiving constant status updates, being open to collaboration and being “always on.” While falling under the moniker of social media tools, these themes can easily be described as ways to improve employee collaboration and make your business run better. Social media has begun to influence the creation of controlled environments for the open exchange of information amongst employees.
And no, this is not just a trend. Many companies feel that one of the things they have to do when new employees join out of college is to drive out of them the need to share and be as open as they were before entering the workplace. While they do need to learn not to share criticism of their bosses on Facebook, being open and collaborative is not something to correct in them—if anything, it’s something to correct in the way you run your business.
Innovative organizations in the larger EDA and semiconductor spaces are starting to take these lessons to heart. We’ve seen many companies begin to both encourage this behavior and provide ways for their employees to better collaborate on design and development. What began as simple ways to share information across teams or applied knowledge around tools or IP is rapidly evolving into collaborative platforms for harnessing the experience of the extended team. The need to solve problems and enhance innovation isn’t restricted to “working hours,” nor is the need to get answers or critical information restricted to one source. Using social media to better enable the design community is rapidly becoming a valuable tool for those who can embrace the possibilities.
But what does that mean? How can you apply such tools and techniques to make your business run more efficiently?
Here are a few suggestions/tips we’ve picked up along the way that you can start applying to your operations—whether you’re 5, 50, or 500 people strong:
- Sharing and status updates: As we said before, we don’t need to know that your Uncle has successful toe surgery, but capturing and taking advantage of the willingness to share is important—especially in an industry such as this one where success is dependent on many people collaborating together.
So set up systems where status updates, ideas, positive outcomes and failures alike are shared, updated and discussed for all to comment and improve upon. Reporting failures instead of waiting until you get something correct can be just as valuable.
- Information availability: With social media, any information you need is available and at your fingertips almost as soon as you finish making the decision that you wanted it. This should be a hallmark of your organization. Need the latest simulations on battery life? The most updated figures on device heat? This information can no longer be kept in silos. Encourage that it be shared with all with the touch of a button.
- Know your audience: Sharing with the right audience is a way to magnify the knowledge potential of the entire team. That said, sharing with a completely inappropriate audience just invites distractive contributions and turns people off to collaborating with you. Learning about the sharing controls and privacy settings on your different social collaboration platforms will go a long way towards keeping your experience productive—and your peer network happy.
- Mobility and the always on culture: Another way social media has changed the world is the mobility factor. No longer are updates to your status only made when you recover after a night out or come into work Monday morning. Updates happen, are read and responded to on an immediate basis. Work is 24/7 as well and employees expect to be able to update a design or a simulation whenever they can. You need to recognize this and empower your employees, be it through the cloud or otherwise, to be as mobile as they need to be.
- Optimize your experience: With the huge number of social collaboration platforms and information sources, the need to create a simple way to harness the best information into something more consumable is mission critical. The ability to dashboard everything can help you gather, consume and understand the information most effectively. There are a number of commercial efforts currently getting a lot of interest that can solve this problem for you. Find one and use it. Using a platform that fits your needs will improve your experience.
- Collaboration is a way of life: Years ago, collaboration was only something you did if you were forced to by your boss or in a business improvement seminar. That has changed and thankfully so. Social media has enabled an entire generation of workers to think differently about how a goal is achieved. The idea of keeping your work to yourself and not sharing success or failure is dead. It needs to die in your organization as well.
Figure 1: An optimized experience allows the audience to bring various types of information together in a single dashboard, such as news feeds, multimedia content, social networking channels, targeted company or product information and analytics tools
Just like any other disruptive technology, collaboration across the collective using social media will become designed-in to future engineering platforms. In fact, it’s already happening.
You can already see the power that real-time collaboration between multiple team members, while marking up a design, has to help reduce verification iterations. Some organizations have chosen to tap into external pools of resources for ideas—and even design by using social media platforms to solicit ideas and designs, driving interest by awarding prizes to the best ideas.
Strategic decisions can be influenced by creating dashboards that aggregate information from a wide range of sources, giving a more complete view of the benefits and risks that need to be considered. And this is just the start. In the near future, EDA will need to incorporate the benefits of social media into a more immersive experience. The individual delivery platforms will be hidden within the EDA tools while the knowledge and information will be made available in a more consumable application for design engineers.
Social media tools and technologies have helped make your employees become more open to collaborating and acting like a team than ever before—so now you must empower them to do so. Use technologies and create business processes that allow all four of these points to happen within your organization. Change collaboration to something that has to be done to a natural occurrence that happens because it helps reach the end goal sooner.
If you do, you’ll find that your organization will foster a collaborative team environment, generate better designs faster, make its clients happier and simply be more successful…even if you have to do it in intervals of 140 characters or less.About the author
Rick Stanton is the Director of ENOVIA Strategy for Semiconductor and ALM Experiences for Dassault Systèmes. He has over twenty years of experience within the EDA and collaborative design methodology space, with a focus on IC product design. He has held leadership roles at both Synchronicity and MatrixOne prior to their acquisition by Dassault Systèmes. Prior to these positions, Rick held applications specialist, development and support roles at Viewlogic Systems, Racal-Redac and RCA/GE/Harris Semiconductor. Rick has a BS degree in electrical engineering from Rutgers University.
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