This content is part of the Essential Guide: What makes enterprise unified communications work
Evaluate Weigh the pros and cons of technologies, products and projects you are considering.

Business social collaboration: Where the industry stands

Industry analyst Irwin Lazar discusses the trends around business social collaboration and what's being done in today's organizations, in this Q&A.

Social collaboration tools are likely already in your network environment, whether you know it or not. Is your business dealing with social collaboration the way other companies are? Where is the industry today with business social collaboration tools and where is the technology headed?

SearchUnifiedCommunications asked Nemertes Research Vice President Irwin Lazar to find out. Lazar, a highly sought-after industry speaker and author, is a research leader in unified communications, social business and contact centers who consults with over 1,000 technology leaders in North America with his team to advise clients and benchmark industry trends. The interview here illuminates industry practices around business social tools and communication.

Where are companies with deploying business social collaboration?

Irwin Lazar

Irwin Lazar: According to the data [Nemertes Research] just released, companies have social tools in use, but IT is not coordinating [social collaboration tools] under some centralized strategy. What happens is that, at a departmental level, certain business units go off and start using different tools they find and think might be useful. But from a corporate standpoint of centralized IT, it's just not really front and center.... I'm still bullish on [business] social collaboration. We see a lot of adoption of it.

What kinds of social collaboration tools are businesses adopting?

Lazar: A lot of companies that are using Salesforce's Chatter now, they're going off and getting accounts on things like Huddle, or they're just going off and getting Google Drive or Box. Those kinds of collaboration tools, with Box now, they've built social capabilities into it so that you can have conversations around documents and can be alerted when changes occur on documents you're interested in. So, you start to see social become embedded in the fabric of other applications …. Social is now in so many other applications that even if you haven't really thought about a plan for an enterprisewide social strategy, you probably have it already anyway.

Where does business social collaboration intersect with unified communications?

Lazar: We define "unified communications" as a subset [of collaboration]. If you look at the different components of a collaboration strategy, there are real-time elements like voice and conferencing … [and] non-real-time collaboration … [like] document collaboration, email and social workspaces -- like Facebook-style groups. All of those come together to form the components of a collaboration architecture. The trick is getting them all to work together in a seamless manner where you're not jumping from app to app anytime you want to do anything.

If we want to have a call to discuss a document, you've got to get into three different applications to make that work: the calendaring app, the Web conferencing app, and the document located in a file store -- and if you can share the document in the Web conference, you can't work on it jointly. When you think about all the different tools that are out there, it's just getting more and more complicated for anybody to get anything done. Even internally to have this interview, I had to have somebody create it in the calendar and then put a link from the calendar to the document, and then we track all of our stuff through Salesforce, so I put a link in my calendar to SalesForce -- and it's just crazy! I can't do all of this through one app.

What are vendors doing to make unified communications and collaboration more seamless?

Lazar: I think what Unify [formerly Siemens] is doing with Ansible [its real-time collaboration tool] is really cool. The vendor is bringing together things like email, IM [instant messaging], social media and popular business tools like Salesforce onto a clientless platform, launchable through a Web link in browsers that support WebRTC [currently FireFox and Chrome]. Avaya, Cisco and all of those vendors will very quickly copy a lot of what they're doing.

Is Siemens the only vendor in the industry creating a single pane of glass for unified collaborative applications?

More on business social collaboration

Enterprise CIO Decisions magazine: Getting down to business with social collaboration tools

How to get employees to use enterprise social collaboration

Creating a successful social collaboration environment

Lazar: Right now, yes. Avaya is trying to get there, and Cisco's trying to get there through what was Quad and is now WebEx Social, and hasn't really succeeded. I think Siemens has thought it out a little better than the rest. It's a struggle, though, because Siemens is nonexistent in the U.S. Outside of the U.S., they're definitely stronger… Siemens has to somehow win hearts and minds. The next step for them is a rebranding …. If they can launch and get some pretty good partners -- they showed some pretty impressive partners that are getting on board with them -- maybe they can turn things around.

For more information, read this tip from Blair Pleasant on how to build business social software adoption rates.

Dig Deeper on Social Networking for Business