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Summary:

In 2011, enterprise will finally get wise to the importance of social media, according to a research paper by Stifel Nicolaus. The biggest areas of growth will be in tools that use consumer technologies and combine internal collaboration with external feedback.

Jive software

This year will be the year that the enterprise really gets wise to the value of social media, which means deals among companies in the collaboration space should speed up according to a report issued on Monday by investment bank Stifel Nicolaus. The authors of “#Winning!// A White Paper on the Rise of Social Media Software,” perhaps the first report to use a Charlie Sheen meme in its title, argue that social media has become so ubiquitous in consumer culture that it will finally make its way into corporate IT departments.

In the words of one industry executive interviewed in the report, “2011 is expected to be the year that the C-level executive embraces the real importance of social integration within the enterprise.” New tools meld traditional modes of collaborative — such as instant messaging, videoconferencing, document management/collaboration and co-browsing — with more modern social principles, such as user threads, profiles, wall posts, and roles to create a visual, group-centric layout for classic collaboration.

One of the most heavily marketed new entrants into this arena has been Salesforce.com’s private social networking service, Chatter. Launched in mid-2010, the service was being used by 80,000 of the company’s 92,000 paying customers by the end of that year. With its recent acquisition of Dimdim, Salesforce plans to add real-time communication, indicating that it plans to follow “the proven Facebook model of combining collaboration and communication into an integrated service” with Chatter.

The report said that as businesses seek ways to shape, control and capitalize on the endless streams of online chatter by customers and employees, they are also trying to amass and analyze every possible bit of useful information. Jive Software, which builds social-business tools, recently acquired data-mining software company Proximal Labs, showing how important the data analysis component is to this space. Increasingly, executives want to see data about employee behavior and engagement added to their management dashboard so they can spot top performing individuals and teams, increase productivity and gain insight into customer relationships.

Looking forward, the Stifel team predicts the best areas of opportunity will be for companies like Jive and Salesforce, which incorporates both internal collaboration platforms and external feedback systems. As larger software companies try to straddle both sides of this line, they’ll look to acquire smaller companies that can help round out their features, making startups who can do a few things really well highly desirable targets.

  1. Wow, just the question, “what if work were social again?” strikes a cord. Looking at these cubicle walls, listening to others typing behind their walls, no talking (even on the phone), no music, no human sounds.

    As far as social media goes, I agree companies need to get on the ball. Those that have waited this long already need to kick it into gear. Those who don’t, I won’t expect to see them (not profitably at least) in the next 5 years. Consumers are so social centric these days if you’re not in front of your customers, you might as well be nowhere.

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  2. At Alfresco (an enterprise content management company) we certainly see social business systems rising in the enterprise. Users typically adopt and love them, because it makes the more effective. But one thing that is happening is that social business systems haven’t really been built for capturing the results of social collaboration – usually, content. In many ways, the deeper social gets into the enterprise, the more it faces the same requirements of typical enterprise systems (compliance, auditing, etc.). Finding a good set of integration points and policies around social will be the next challenge – but a challenge definitely worth solving.

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  3. I agree. I am the CEO of cloudsandwich.com. Consumer apps are leading the way for enterprise. We have been working in healthcare who are notoriously slow to adopt anything new and especially anything with the word social in it. Since the start of this year I have noticed a big change. Last year Pharma companies told us they weren’t even allowed to access Facebook or Twitter from their company computers. This year it seems like every healthcare company and their aunty has a Facebook or Twitter profile.
    It’s also worth noting that every vertical has different needs for a social business strategy and also very different requirements for internal and external solutions. Our focus has been not to create one platform that services all markets but to have ONE platform based on a common code base – in the cloud – with modified branches to service a number of specialized markets and workflows. To date CloudSandwich has launched three branches for healthcare and the entertainment industry.

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