While consumer social networking products continue to seep into the workplace, a series of acquisitions and product releases validated enterprise social media tools in 2012. As part of our 2012 UC Milestones series reviewing the year in unified communications and collaboration, we spoke with Rob Arnold, senior industry analyst at San Antonio-based Frost & Sullivan Inc. about how the enterprise social media market evolved this year.
In mid-2012, Microsoft announced plans to acquire Yammer -- a microblogging and collaboration tool for enterprise social networking -- a move that helped to accelerate Microsoft's social strategy. The highly anticipated acquisition sparked several other UC vendors to evaluate their own enterprise social strategies, Arnold said. "This move helped the social enterprise movement. If Microsoft is going to make this type of investment, they must see opportunity and some significant demand from their customer base," he said.
Citrix also completed its acquisition of Podio, a cloud-based social business collaboration platform, and Cisco rebranded Quad -- its enterprise collaboration platform for content creation and real-time communications -- as Cisco WebEx Social, marking the vendor's commitment to integrating social tools more tightly with its Web conferencing platform, Arnold said. "Users are expecting a consistent place to share information, and not just text-based information. They want voice and video, social tools tied together with collaboration," he said.
But users don't want just another tool. UC and collaboration vendors picked up on this requirement and began to integrate their disparate instant messaging, presence and collaboration tools into one social platform for enterprises in 2012.
Social analytics boosted value of enterprise social media tools
Although vendors are developing more unified -- and arguably more attractive -- enterprise social media tools, the value proposition for an enterprise social strategy is still weak. Social analytics could help strengthen the value of social business tools, by giving enterprise decision makers insight into what is going on within the business tools their employees are using. Social analytics tools can drill down into which employees are working together and what progress they are making with projects.
"Social analytics capabilities -- like what IBM is currently offering -- could help businesses understand how their employees work and what the flow of information should look like within their company," Arnold said. "This information can be used to identify both efficiencies and deficiencies within business processes."
Social media tools for operational transformation
More news on enterprise social media tools in 2012
Microsoft develops social strategy, acquires Yammer
Enterprise social software Magic Quadrant: Pure play vs. IT vendors
Cisco brings social collaboration to Quad
Enterprises want better social media integration
Enterprises have been looking at social media from a user or workflow perspective, but not necessarily from an operational perspective -- a viewpoint that needs to change moving into 2013, to increase adoption of enterprise social tools. Businesses need metrics, and the ability to monetize the value of social media in a more meaningful way. Enterprises are asking, not just how people interact, but also what the technology means to how business runs, Arnold said.
While the operational aspect of social tools was a hard sell for vendors in 2012 without a definitive business value proposition, users already know they want these tools to prevent email clutter and get their work done more efficiently.
"People are on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and they already see that value and expect [social] networking capabilities in the workplace," Arnold said.