Social business tools, enterprise social networks, portals and intranets are helping companies break down the internal silos that keep workers from the information they need at their fingertips. In 2013, it was a big year for many players in this space, including Microsoft and Salesforce. Both the Yammer and Chatter social networks took dramatic new shapes this year.
As we enter 2014, we took a look back at the 2013 social business trends that drove the industry.
Collaborate in New Ways
What is social business? We use it to describe the various internal tools companies use to collaborate on projects or work together remotely, including enterprise social networks (ESN), portals and intranets. What it does not include is email. Email is not social. It is the opposite of social. In fact, the rise in popularity of ESNs and tools like Yammer is part due to how poor email adapts to collaboration.
Obviously, email is still very popular, and social business tools are very often tied directly to email accounts But the point is information and documents can be shared and worked on in more centralized ways. Take the Telligent buy of Zimbra from VMWare back in July. Telligent liked Zimbra so much it not only bought the company but decided to take the Zimbra name as its own.
Smart companies want to give workers the best tools to be productive. Merging email (Zimbra) with Telligent's collaboration tools is one way to do that. In fact, opening up of collaboration systems to other applications was a major theme in 2013, according to Rob Koplowitz, a Forrester analyst.
"The social business landscape matured in 2013," he told CMSWire.
Microsoft's buy of Yammer was a big validation of the success of social, Koplowitz added. Companies are really seeing the benefits social business tools have in terms of extracting internal expertise and information. Yammer, for example, has a bevvy of applications that connect to it, and that indeed helps break down information barriers. But for now, unlocking that siloed information remains a cultural and technological challenge.
IBM established itself in the social business space in 2013, Koplowitz noted. Big Blue was named as a leader in Gartner's 2013 MQ for Workplace Social Software. Just recently, IBM recently announced it has integrated its Connections social network with the HootSuite social media dashboard.
Some of the details have yet to be worked out with this integration because it was just announced, but it could be ready to go in early 2014 for enterprise customers of both HootSuite and IBM. Having a more open ESN is one way companies can differentiate themselves from their competitors in the industry. This is key. As Gartner noted, it's becoming harder to tell products apart by features. Almost all of them have activity streams, profiles, embedded messages and dynamic profiles, for example.
Analysts at IDC expect social software to become a $2.7 billion market by 2017. This is IDC's breakdown of social software revenue by country.
Blending Standalone Networks, Enterprise Apps
Because the power of social can be found in those activity streams, profiles and embedded messages, it's no wonder that folding those tools into other apps was a major 2013 trend. As mentioned in the introduction, both Yammer and Chatter have taken new directions in 2013. Yammer merged into SharePoint and Chatter is now the basis of the Salesforce1 system that was announced at Dreamforce 2013 in San Francisco.
"Enterprise social platforms are moving from standalone to embedded, and this merges the network into the workflow instead of simply having a social layer," Vanessa Thompson, a research manager at IDC said in an interview.
Yammer is now the social feed within SharePoint (and soon to be Office 365 and Office Web Apps), and Chatter is the framework for Salesforce1, a tool built to allow companies to use Salesforce more fully on mobile devices. It is just another way social tools are blending into other digital domains is on the customer facing extranets side.
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