*This post was originally posted on the Destination CRM Blog

Thanks to digitization and inexpensive storage, businesses can now collect incredible amounts of information on their customers, competitors, and other market factors. But you only profit from this bounty if an employee can find the right data nugget when they need it. And here lies our problem: The average information worker lacks tools to cull disparate data repositories for useful information.

The foundation for addressing this issue is emerging in cloud-based collaboration services. Vendors like Huddle and Microsoft are embedding social analytical tools in their collaboration portfolios to observe when, where, and how employees interact with people and content. As these collaboration services begin to understand these relationships, they promise to make these information workers:

  • Aware. Fundamentally, social analytics surface information and people an information worker had not considered before. Giving employees a broader perspective will help them do things like staff a fast-moving consulting project.
  • Prescient. Social analytics can also help employees anticipate what they will need to know in a future situation. For example, suggesting a salesperson review specific background documentation and gather certain product collateral before a client meeting will lead to a more fruitful sales call.
  • Adaptable. The greatest potential of these tools is helping an information worker determine her next best action. Imagine helping a cable repairman decide how to prioritize appointments based on the technician's location, local traffic patterns, and the location of other techs.

Odds are these social analytics tools are already in your business. Between 2011 and 2013, interest in and deployment of cloud collaboration services increased from 56% to 71% of the software decision-makers Forrester surveyed. The reason? The cloud is a natural place to connect your employees, partners, and customers. This means there’s a great opportunity to give employees greater awareness, prescience, and adaptability at the junction of your business ecosystem.

Now comes the caveat: This requires an adventurer’s spirit. We’re in the early days of these social analytical tools and that means we’ll have to endure the associated growing pains. And to shorten the learning curve, you’re going to have to work with these vendors to help perfect these analytical tools. What does this entail? You must be willing to:

  • Teach the system. These analytical tools get smarter – and therefore more accurate – when they have lots of data to analyze and human input on the results. So your organization must do two things: 1) Use the cloud collaboration tools, contributing files, profiles and other information to the repository; and 2) Use the analytical tools, accepting or rejecting its suggestions to help the system better hone in on what is relevant.
  • Provide feedback.The vendors are learning how to develop and bundle these solutions into their collaboration offerings, and they need guidance. So it’s important that you surface issues and give suggestions through channels like your account representative, customer success consultants, or executive advisory groups.