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UC market predictions for the new year: Social enterprise tools

Rob Arnold, industry analyst for Frost & Sullivan predicts deeper integration between social enterprise tools, UC and collaboration offerings in 2014.

Users want UC and collaboration platforms that make it easier for them to get their work done, and clicking back and forth among multiple, siloed applications is not good enough. Tighter integrations between social capabilities and real-time communication and collaboration tools can break those siloes and boost corporate adoption of social enterprise tools.

person using screen to connect people socially

As part of SearchUnifiedCommunications' series of UC predictions for 2014, we spoke with Rob Arnold, senior industry analyst at Mountain View, Calif.-based Frost & Sullivan Inc. about how the enterprise social media market will help enterprise workers be more productive in the new year.

Social enterprise tools becoming more tied to UC, collaboration platforms

Social can't be a place employees go; it has to be a part of how they work, Arnold said. Vendors have finally caught on and should focus on providing users with single sign-on capabilities or a single platform to get work done. "It gets really messy if [enterprises] have multiple, unrelated platforms that don't talk to each other," he said.

Many vendors are acquiring social technology vendors and integrating the technology with their existing UC software. UC vendors aren't the only players who see value in enterprise software. Peoplefluent acquired Socialtext to enhance its human resources management software, and VMware acquired Socialcast to work with its end-user computing platforms -- a trend that will continue to play out in 2014, Arnold said. "Larger IT and business software companies are looking to compliment or enhance their existing portfolios with social collaboration technology," he said.

Collaboration vendors that already have social products will be working toward combining their standalone products and offering bundles, Arnold said. Microsoft recently announced the addition of its social software -- Yammer -- to Office 365, and Cisco will most likely start packing more social functionality into WebEx in 2014, as the vendor has quietly stopped development on its WebEx Social standalone platform, he said.

Work habits, corporate culture slowly adapting in favor of social tools

Executives started seeing a more demonstrable return on investment (ROI) and clear value proposition for the social enterprise in 2013 -- a trend that will continue into 2014, Arnold said. Analytics capabilities tied to social technology will help executives understand the value of investing in social enterprise tools.

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"We are seeing a bigger focus on analytics functionality from social developers," he said. "The ability to aggregate and report on information and slice and dice it to make it more meaningful is important -- [execs] want to know who is connected to whom, if employees are connected and sharing with the right people, and what their employees' habits are." The right social technology should also deliver business process improvements in 2014 -- such as a reduction in help desk tickets internally or an increase in customer satisfaction scores for when companies are able to help customers more quickly through social engagement, Arnold said.

While users will always have different preferences, the real challenge for social tools will continue to be making their use habitual, Arnold said.

"Social is a different way to use a lot of the same communication capabilities that exist today -- just in a smarter way," he said. But that won't happen overnight. "There needs to be guidance on setting up communities and getting started with social functionalities and building a business case on the front end."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news Writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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