Enterprise Social Software is, as the name suggests, Facebook-like software—but designed and used solely in the corporate world. In other words, it is a social networking application designed for a select, invited, group of people – employees, corporate partners, possibly customers – and heavily infused with productivity tools such as document sharing, blogs, shared spaces and communities and so on.
Companies as wide ranging as Cisco, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, and Jive Software are active in this space, giving users a wealth of options.
Sounds like a corporate dream, no? To marry the real time nature of social media with the business-oriented tools of collaboration and productivity, all behind a firewall? Actually that rhetorical answer might well be “no,” based on the somewhat staid performance of these applications to date. Except for Salesforce’s Chatter, which is supported by the company’s immense installed base, none of these applications, or this software category in general, can be counted as a breakaway success.
A Change Could Be Ahead
There is a school of thought that this may change, however. One reason is that executives might have been predisposed against corporate social networking, given the time suck that networks such as Facebook and Twitter have become. While companies adore seeing their customers interact and engage on these networks through social CRM, they are not so thrilled if their employees spend some of their working hours on the sites.
But that attitude could be changing as the business case for these applications becomes clearer. Corporate social networking is more than just bragging about landing a particular account, or sending out requests for information about a particular client or account – requests that could just as easily be made via email.
It is becoming clear that enterprise social software is, in fact, increasing productivity to a marked degree. It also is cutting costs and even having an impact on the bottom line as it helps to drive sales and close accounts. That, namely, is because the features are becoming more sophisticated: Users can have impromptu video conferences using these applications while exchanging notes about a particular project to give one example. Another example, provided by Salesforce’s recent update to Chatter, is the topical pages that can be created with the application – including the inclusion of subject expert’s contact information.
Another Reason to Jump Aboard: Added Integration
Another reason for the predicted increase in adoption: The next stage for enterprise social software tools is expected to be integration with established collaborative tools and applications.
Venture capital is steadily plowing into this space with such integration as one of its goals, according to CB Insights – with the top example being Microsoft’s acquisition of social enterprise software start up Yammer for $1.2 billion.
CB Insights doesn’t underestimate the uphill climb this software category has to make. Jive Software, which had a very successful IPO in December of 2011, and Yammer are still seen as niche plays. But as the functionality continues to improve and as these best-of-breed features work their way into larger suites, that climb will become easier to make.