If you’re going to achieve growth in the knowledge economy, your employees need to be able to quickly find people inside and outside the company whose expertise can help them solve critical business problems. That takes a highly effective communication tool.

Oh, we already have that, you might say: email.

Email is indeed good for enabling employees to communicate with colleagues they already know. But it hasn’t changed much in all these years, and it remains ill-suited for helping employees find experts they don’t know, particularly in other companies.

And as younger employees join the workforce, who are used to communicating with friends via Facebook and Twitter, they find it restrictive to have to rely on email at work.

Frustrated by these limitations, the global information-technology service provider Atos, headquartered in France, sought an internal collaboration system that would do away with email’s “closed” form of communication.

It acquired social-software maker blueKiwi and combined the acquired company’s application with two from Microsoft, creating a platform that allows individuals and teams, including those in partners and clients, to enter virtual “communities” where they can collaborate on complex projects.