Forrester: Enterprise social barely out of the starting gate

Enterprise Social 2.0

From breaking down barriers to the free flow of information within the organization to communicating with customers (particularly coveted Gen Y), enterprise social media and other social tools are often hailed as a next-generation solution for improving the business bottom line. Tech sites, including WebWorkerDaily, often boost these technologies and track business interest in them, but how many workers are actually adopting them for use on the ground?

To find out, Forrester Research recently polled 4,985 U.S. information workers about their use of enterprise social for The Enterprise 2.0 User Profile: 2011, which was released last week. The results: 28 percent of workers use social software at least monthly.

That’s not a terribly low figure for a relatively new technology, but Forrester further profiled that 28 percent and found they belong to a very narrow subset of the workforce.

  • They’re earlier adopters. “They have positive attitudes about the role of technology in their lives — more than two-thirds are technology optimists,” says the Forrester report.
  • They’re well paid. More than half make $60,000 a year or more.
  • They’re highly educated. “23 percent hold advanced degrees, and 49 percent are in management,” reports Forrester.
  • They’re pressed for time. “Software users work, on average, 2.41 hours longer than other employees during the workweek. They also spend 1.95 more hours, on average, working outside business hours than the rest of the workforce.”
  • They’re not all Gen Y. While a slightly more than a quarter (26 percent) are supposedly social-mad Gen Y, a larger percentage (35 percent) of users are from Gen X.

While there’s nothing shocking in this profile of the average enterprise social software user (in fact it sounds a lot like the average telecommuter), this stereotypical portrait of the connected, elite professional reveals that these technologies have a long way to go before they’re accepted more broadly in the workplace. This confirms earlier Forrester research showing just one in six Gen Yers use social tools.

The numbers also show that while the high-powered and over-scheduled really like their enterprise social tools, they don’t view them as essential. “Just 22 percent of social software users tell us the technologies are vital to their jobs,” according to Forrester, who says these tools “remain on the periphery of an information worker’s workflow.”

Will enterprise social tools ever be an everyday component of work for a wide swath of the workforce?

Image courtesy of Flickr user luca.sartoni.

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