Social computing has finally caught on in the enterprise, with almost 59% of companies now using blogs and wikis, while nearly half are using or evaluating social suites. Although shared workspace tools such as IBM Lotus Quickr and Microsoft Office SharePoint are still mostly used as document repositories, many vendors are embedding social capabilities into their platforms via built-in social capabilities, through partners (e.g. Newsgator), or via integration with their own social applications (e.g. IBM Lotus Connections). The rate of adoption of each of these social applications has jumped significantly over the last few years.
Why is social software use exploding? Business and IT leaders cite a variety of factors such as user familiarity with public sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and MySpace, leading to demand to leverage social tools internally to improve communication and collaboration. Line of business, as well as IT managers, see a growing opportunity to leverage social software to build communities that extend across lines of business, geographies, or even to customer and/or partners to foster greater ability to share information.
Social-computing products are transitioning from individual applications, such as blogs, wikis, or document sharing, to integrated social-computing suites encompassing and integrating many different tools.
More recently, enterprise social suites, such as Cisco Quad, Jive SBS, IBM Lotus Connections, Newsgator Social Sites, and Socialtext, combine one or more social tools—such as threaded discussion forums, rating/commenting/tagging features, profile sharing, integration with public social sites, and/or microbloging—either as bundled applications or as add-ons to document-collaboration applications such as SharePoint.
And now social computing is making the leap to integrate with unified-communications applications to add presence and real-time communications abilities to social communities. For example, social applications, including Cisco Quad, IBM Lotus Connections, and Microsoft Office SharePoint, can display a user’s presence status (e.g. online, on a call, unavailable, etc.) in their personal profile page. Microsoft Office Communicator users can search SharePoint profiles for tag information, such as keywords or skills. And Avaya and Siemens are adding the ability to use social services such as Twitter to trigger internal communications events such as sending a tweet to change presence status.
As a result those responsible for UC planning must increasingly become familiar with social computing deployments within their organizations. Meanwhile collaboration planners should integrate both UC and social computing initiatives to ensure the ability to integrate social and UC platforms for maximum benefit.
Irwin Lazar is the Vice President for Communication and Collaboration Research at Nemertes Research, where he develops and manages research projects, develops cost models, conducts strategic seminars and advises clients. His background is in network operations, network engineering, voice-data convergence, and IP telephony. Mr. Lazar is responsible for benchmarking the adoption and use of emerging technologies in the enterprise in areas including VOIP, unified communications, Web 2.0 initiatives, social networking, and collaboration.
A Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and sought-after speaker and author, Mr. Lazar is a columnist for No Jitter and Enterprise2Blog. He is a frequent resource for the business and trade press and is regular speaker at events such as Interop, VoiceCon, and Enterprise 2.0. Mr. Lazar serves as the conference director for FutureNet (formerly MPLScon), and is on the advisory board for the Enterprise 2.0 conference.