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Social technologies at work? What social technologies?

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As my colleague Kevin C. Tofel has pointed out, new research from Forrester reveals that consumer phones are invading the enterprise, but that’s not the only area of collaboration the study probes. Like the phone findings, some takeaways confirm realities we already see under way at offices every day, but others undercut so-called trends often mentioned by media cheerleaders (including GigaOM).

So what other collaboration trends does the study confirm? Remote work, it turns out, is largely a privilege of those higher up in the office food chain. Previous demographic studies on telecommuters and remote workers have revealed that they’re a highly educated, highly paid lot, who are generally higher up in their organizations. Forrester concurs, saying:

The report also reveals that workers are untethered from the office as they rise in rank. 53 percent of individual workers are office-bound, but that number drops to 35 percent among managers and supervisors, and plummets to just 10 percent among directors and executives.

No surprises there, then, but another finding is eye-opening. Here at WebWorkerDaily, social technology at work is a big topic, and we cover a variety of social tools for enterprise, from Jive and Chatter to Yammer. But despite its being a fast-growing market segment with huge media buzz, Forrester reveals exactly how far these technologies are from going mainstream. The research concludes (italics are mine):

Adoption of enterprise 2.0 technologies is still nascent. Only one in six Gen Y professionals uses social tools. Despite significant and ongoing investment in enterprise social technologies, their roughly seven-year lifespan within enterprises has yielded a maximum of 12 percent adoption within the overall workforce. This market has failed to displace traditional collaboration technologies like email as a preferred way to communicate at work.

Of course, this finding doesn’t mean that 12 percent isn’t the thin edge of a very big knife. We may yet see social for the enterprise slice into the mainstream market, but the Forrester research is a nice reminder of the gap between what’s commonplace among media types and geeks and what’s still alien to “regular people.” Several articles have made this point lately about consumer social media and Twitter. Perhaps it’s worth making about enterprise social as well.

For the time being, is enterprise social overblown?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Iain Farrell

4 Responses to “Social technologies at work? What social technologies?”

  1. It’s interesting how remote work seems to be something for the working elite. I think that a huge factor contributing to this is the use of new technologies which are mostly ‘alien’ to the regular people, as you wrote it. I wonder just how will everyone have access to this new and growing workforce..

  2. Hyoun Park

    We once said that cell phones were ridiculous. Before that, we wondered why anyone would use email. But the problem with social business right now is that all social business tools are treated with equal importance, when the real key is to share information more quickly, efficiently, and intelligently. That last one is often ignored, although it’s an important aspect of social business. Without context and analysis, we’re really just talking about another business workflow technology where the value of social is not inherently obvious.

    And then there’s also the problem that every social case is getting the same amount of press whether it’s successful or simply presented by a good evangelist. Until we consistently cut the wheat from the chaff and implement strong social business cases, we’re not going to move forward on the promise of social in improving business outcomes.

  3. I would say that it’s premature more than overblown. In about five years when the incoming workforce has primarily been “raised” on social platforms, then the dynamics will begin to change and enterprise social willl reach critical mass whereby “regular people” will haven been intuitively shaped by what we currently call the media types and geeks. Better learn it now though.