Studies Suggest That Enterprise Social Media Will Change the Face of Business

Article ImageThere may be an ocean between them, but the U.S. and the U.K. are on the same wavelength when it comes to Enterprise 2.0 tools. These tools are increasingly in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. Recently, Trampoline Sytems—a London-based provider of social networking software—released research echoing these sentiments; of 111 businesses surveyed in the U.K. and U.S., 84% said that social networking would help with sharing knowledge and expertise across the organization.

"We find people come to us more and more expressing a real interest in using these tools," says Peter Biddle, VP of development for Trampoline, which offers its SONAR suite—a portal delivered via API that provides tools for employees to locate experts, connect, and collaborate. "Our research was an attempt to validate these interests," he explains.

The survey, conducted in Boston and London, produced some interesting results: 94% of U.K. businesses surveyed believed social networking would be beneficial to use at work compared to 82% of U.S. organizations. While both numbers are high, Biddle was surprised for a different reason. "Also surprising … is that there is this assumption that U.S. companies are adopting these tools at a quicker rate, but we found that, actually, the opposite is true."

Other studies, conducted by AIIM and Forrester, reached similar conclusions. Forrester found that, among 236 Global 2,000 companies (20,000 or more employees), 51% stated that they were definitely adopting Web 2.0 tools within their organizations; 12% were considering adopting them.

Meanwhile, according to Forrester’s findings, social networking tools are predicted to be the biggest priority among corporations; they are expected to earn $1,997,000 in sales by 2013.

Notes Biddle, "Corporate employees already understand the notion of search as a means to find information, but now they are interested in understanding how to find expertise and like-minded colleagues more easily." Trampoline’s findings reflect this: Of those surveyed, 69% want to be able to interact with colleagues that they don’t know.

John Blossom, president and analyst for Shore Communications, agrees that enterprise social networking can be highly beneficial. He says, "A typical problem is trying to find the right person with the right expertise to solve a problem. Public services such as LinkedIn make it easy to filter skill sets of people in a social network and to find people who may be appropriate to approach. It also enables, through LinkedIn Answers, people to ask questions to a general community that can be answered by people with expertise in a topic. Rather than their answers disappearing into an individual’s email folder the answer is then searchable for future reference."

Though many companies already have enterprisewide wikis and blogs to promote collaboration, enterprise social networking brings something a little different to the table. "We’re huge fans of wikis and blogs, but they don’t do a good job of helping users find those people who would be interested in collaborating in a wiki in the first place," notes Biddle.

"Most effective social media publishing tools already have an element of social networking built into them … wiki software makes it easy to get to know the other people collaborating on developing content. But with the rapid evolution of tools such as Facebook and LinkedIn, the line between social networking and publishing is increasingly blurred. LinkedIn Answers, for example, enables people to ask questions of executives and to get valuable answers. However, without a secure social networking website, these questions would not be asked with security and privacy," adds Blossom.

The notion of Enterprise 2.0 is still somewhat new, but in time, social media tools have the potential to alter the landscape of traditional business. "The traditional face-to-face meeting will always be powerful, but I do think that they will become rarer. The time and economical factors just aren’t conducive to always being able to bring people together anymore," says Biddle.

Blossom agrees: "In the long run, large organizations that insist on limiting social media will find themselves being challenged by more nimble organizations who know how to enable their employees to work fluidly across organizational boundaries to solve problems. Leveraging all of humanity’s intellectual assets effectively will become more important than assembling a proprietary team of people who may or may not have all of the answers to rapidly changing circumstances. Many of these changes will happen slowly over time, but the economy of the next decade depends heavily on organizations being willing to open themselves up to the productivity available through social media."