The good news: Technology that encourages employee communication and collaboration is becoming less expensive all the time. Small organizations can develop in house, or with the help of a freelance IT professional, solutions that are cost-efficient and deliver on the promise of bringing people together in meaningful (and productive) ways.

The bad news? The sheer breadth of software and tools that are out there. A recent search on the technology website CNET revealed 76 product results in the project management category alone.

To help you wade through the options when it comes to technology to enable or enhance information sharing by employees, in Q3 2009 we surveyed registered users of our website as well as our small business honorees to understand how they are using communications technology to support their businesses. This is what we heard from them:

Current Methods for Information Sharing

Method Registered Users Honorees
Mobile phones 71%* most common choice 90%* most common choice
Skype 20% 0%
WebEx or similar web/audio conferencing tool 56% 60%
Company blog 19% 30%
Company intranet 63% 70%
Custom social networking platform 14% 20% least named
Social networking site (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Ning, etc.) 48% 30%
None of the above 7% least named 0%
Other 15% 0%

*Since respondents chose all measures that applied, the totals add up to more than 100 percent.

Other methods listed by registered users include software such as Spark, Yammer and Google Docs; custom websites; email; newsletters; VOIP; and wikis.

Usage Breakdown – Popular Social Networking Sites

Site Registered Users Honorees
LinkedIn 85%* most common choice 50%*
Twitter 49% 0%
Facebook 69% 75% most common choice
Ning 5% least named 0%
Other 13% 25% least named

Other popular sites listed include Yammer, Xing, SharePoint and a custom-designed, Twitter-like system for employee recognition.

Staff Charged with Managing This Information Sharing

Role Registered Users Honorees
IT dept/staff 66% most common choice 78% most common choice
CIO 7% least named 0%
CEO 14% 0%
HR 14% 22% least named
Other 45% 22%

Other staff roles include marketing manager/staff; special events coordinator; communications manager/staff; leadership team; COO; department manager; and a combination of HR, marketing and IT.

Cost-Cutting and/or Revenue-Producing Ideas Generated Through This Information Sharing

Feedback Industry No. Employees Role
Improved brand and sales. Health Care 101-250 Manager
Fewer on-site sales calls. 24/7 availability. Manufacturing 51-100 Leader
Reduced direct mail costs for events. Created online registration. Created ability to donate online. Nonprofit 501-999 VP Communications & Event Planning
We are able to see exactly where our time, activity and cost is going and why, so we are better able to cut where needed and improve for revenue production where needed. Other 51-100 Manager
Using less in-house supplies, and not filling email inboxes with numerous informational emails causing a lack in bandwidth. Professional Services 251-500 Human Resources
Going green! We have reduced paper consumption as well as increased our audience numbers. Professional Services 1-50 Leader
50% reduction in time-wasting efforts in reading email or other electronic transmissions. People stay focused on their work. Technology/
51-100 Leader
Virtual meeting (travel cost avoidance. Geo-consolidation of meetings (minimizing travel cost). Professional Services 1-50 Leader
Linking shopping portal to social networking has increased traffic to web. Retail Trade 1000+ Leader

Above Ideas’ Impact on Expense Reduction and Revenue Generation

We asked our survey respondents, when considering the kinds of ideas they listed above, about how much they saved or earned as a result. Roughly 40 percent of both groups said they reduced expenses or grew revenues by $1,000 or less.

However, 18 percent of registered users reduced expenses by up to $5,000 and 10 percent did so by up to $50,000. Eighteen percent of them grew revenues by up to $500,000 while 16 percent did so by up to $10,000.

Among honorees, 17 percent reduced expenses by up to $20,000 and the same percentage did so by up to $1 million. Twenty percent of them grew revenues as a result of these ideas by up to $50,000.

Area of Business Where It’s Most Effective

Finally, we asked respondents in what issues or circumstances technology-driven information sharing is most effective. The most common feedback included:

  • Cross-functional projects
  • HR matters
  • Standardized forms used daily by sales/service employees
  • Collaboration among geographically dispersed employees
  • To get all employees up to speed on new information quickly
  • Providing employees with common answers to their questions
  • Ensuring things explained in person are also in writing
  • Enhancing member or customer communications
  • Market research
  • PR, industry recognition

It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of respondents feel in-person, one-on-one communication is not going away any time soon – they see it as critical to ensuring understanding and accomplishment of key tasks and meeting the needs of their customers and the marketplace.