The Struggle for Enterprise Social

By Irwin Lazar
On Feb 05, 2014
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Last week I followed the news out of IBM’s annual collaboration conference in Orlando (formerly Lotusphere, now IBM Connect). As they have done for the last several years IBM announced a slew of enhancements to their Connections social collaboration platform as they implement their vision to make it the primary end-user collaboration interface; combining access to UC applications, document, and messaging services. While IBM did demonstrate a number of case studies from its larger partners, our research has repeatedly shown that social collaboration is struggling to catch on in the enterprise. Our 2013-14 benchmark notes that while about half of companies have social tools somewhere in their organization, only a third have a strategic, enterprise-wide social platform, and in most cases, that’s Microsoft’s SharePoint. While SharePoint does have some social features like wikis, blogs, and activity streams, its history is largely that of a document-focused collaboration platform with a feature set that lags behind the pure social plays like IBM, Jive, and Sitrion (formerly Newsgator).

The lack of social adoption is surprising given the broad adoption of social applications in the consumer world. Most of us use services like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter in our personal lives, but once we flip open the lid of our laptop or start up our desktop, our first inclination is to go to our email in-box rather than leverage a similar user interface and feature set as is available in the consumer world. We also see a lack of awareness of the availability of enterprise-wide social collaboration tools. Indeed when we ask our interviewees about their use of social collaboration, often their first response is to tell us about their use of Facebook and Twitter for marketing efforts.

The IT leaders who are aware of, and are investigating social often tell us that it’s a struggle to build a business case. Those who have aggressively deployed social platforms are largely doing so because senior executives (in and outside of IT) have recognized the power of social to enable broad company-wide information sharing that they believe leads to tangible improvements in business processes such as R&D, marketing, sales, and customer support. While those who take a bottom-up approach struggle to build a business case that they can take to their procurement teams for funding approval.

Meanwhile, business units aren’t waiting for IT and a company-wide solution. Social tools integrated with LoB applications are becoming commonplace (e.g. Salesforce Chatter integrate with its CRM platform). Social features are fast appearing in document sharing services like Box and Dropbox. Even large ERP vendors like SAP are getting into the social game (e.g. SAP Jam). Meanwhile Microsoft continues to add social features to SharePoint while it integrates Yammer into its Office365 SaaS offering. The growth of point solutions creates risk in that it is difficult to capture social conversations to meet compliance and governance requirements, but it also demonstrates that standing still is not an option. Don’t wait for LoBs to deploy their own social “islands,” instead, take a long look at the ability of social collaboration tools to meet LoB needs while providing enterprise-wide access to shared groups, conversations, expertise, and activities.



Wd should have a more in depth discussion on this topic the next time you are in NY.