Social Butterfl-i? Enterprise Social Software Spending to Grow in 2011
January 24, 2011 Jenny Thomas
Even if you’re one of the few holdouts who has not succumbed to joining a social network at home, a social network is likely headed into your workplace that will thrust you into the global community whether you’re ready or not. In every marketplace around the globe, companies are scrambling to figure out how to make social software work for their enterprise to connect employees, partners, and customers in a bid to cut costs, improve worker productivity, grow business, and, of course, make money.
According to the Gartner report, Market Trends: Convergence Restructuring the Enterprise Social Software Market, Worldwide, 2010, sales of enterprise social software will continue to grow in 2011, with revenue forecast to reach $769.2 million, up 15.7 percent from 2010. (The complete report is available here.) But we’re not talking about the same kind of social networking your kids, your grandma, and even your dog may be into.
Tom Eid, research vice president at Gartner, said that the consultancy uses the term “social software” for technologies that facilitate freeform interactions, reflect the relationships between individuals, and provide tools for collaboration, communities, and networking. That definition does not include consumer-based social software such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Orkut, and many others.
Eid did not provide a list of the more than 80 vendors that Gartner tracks for this marketplace, but a quick Google search for “enterprise social software” reveals a whole new world of companies providing such technologies as blogs, communities, discussion forums, expertise location, feeds and syndication, social bookmarks, wikis, and integrated platforms.
“The social software market is evolving in response to the demand for flexible environments in which participants can connect, create, share, and find people and information relevant to their work,” Eid said. “Social software improves the connectedness of workers, promotes collaboration, and helps capture informal knowledge. Social software excels in business contexts that leave room for individuals to interact informally, brainstorm, explore ideas, and encourage or challenge peers.”
Figuring out how to integrate all these new social mediums into your IT infrastructure will be the real trick. And it’s not hard to surmise that many companies will be looking to their IT managers for ways to integrate these trendy technologies.
So what’s IBM‘s take on enterprise social media and the i? Well, Big Blue seems to understand social media is the hot topic of the day, although it’s not being addressed on a platform basis. In August of last year, IBM reported that in a worldwide survey of 1,000 IBM business partners, 45 percent said they are experimenting with a social media business strategy to generate new revenue streams. Of those, however, three-quarters said they were uncertain how to apply social media as an effective sales tool.
According to that same IBM survey, 74 percent of IBM BPs want education on how to utilize social computing. They also are asking for training on specific social media tools like RSS, Facebook, Twitter, wikis, and setting up networking communities for engaging with other partners and customers. There was no data available on how many of those 1,000 BPs surveyed were i resellers, but even if that number was zero, businesses run on the i are faced with the same social media challenges as everyone else.
According to the Gartner report, there are a many different scenarios for enterprise social software deployments. A company might choose to focus on internal users, with an emphasis on integration with existing infrastructure, business applications, and other enterprise requirements. Or a company might want to target internal communities of interest, aiming to capture and diffuse organizational knowledge. External customer communities are another option for social media deployments, and can encourage consumer engagement, and management of user-generated content. The end goal of the social software is to improve the connectedness of workers, promote collaboration, and capture informal knowledge, hopefully at a profit.
No matter what size i shop you’re running, these tasks will eventually trickle into the IT department, even if it’s just to get them set up before handing them off to your marketing, product development, or new “social media” team. But that doesn’t mean you have to re-invent the social wheel. Gartner reports that many social software packages are available through cloud-based and SaaS delivery, which opens up access to collaboration and social software technology to small and midsize businesses that would not otherwise consider on-premise deployments.
IBM’s PartnerWorld Web site offers a guide to getting started with social media, which you can see here.
If you’re already adopting social software into your enterprise and want to share your story, we’d love to hear from you.