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Adoption of social enterprise software will grow rapidly over the next few years. That’s a key takeaway from a new report by International Data Corporation (IDC) on the dramatic rise of enterprise-oriented social networking applications.

The study, called the Worldwide Enterprise Social Software 2012-2016 Forecast, said that revenue from this category will soar from US$ 0.8 billion last year to about US$ 4.5 billion in 2016, for a compound annual growth rate of 42 percent.

Decision Support, Productivity Enhancement

After initially ignoring the boom in consumer social networking software and sites, businesses and vendors began to see the opportunities in social networking software for collaboration, knowledge sharing, customer relationship management and other functions, all performed with little IT assistance and, often, in real-time. Social enterprise software is now increasingly being used for communications within organizations, between organizations and their customers, and for B2B.

Functions that are now in common use in many organizations include community forums, collaborative team workgroups, wikis, activity and news streams, monitoring of outside social networking by customers, micro-blogging and more, often integrated into other applications.

The IDC report noted that social enterprise tools are now frequently being used as key components of decision support, and have often become critical elements in productivity enhancement. It also noted that key drivers of adoption include employees wanting access to the kind of communication tools they can use at home, and the advantages of adding social communication capabilities to existing enterprise tools, such as quickly assembling teams or being able to rapidly locate specialized knowledge inside an organization.

"Pace of Change"

Michael Fauscette, group vice president of IDC’s Software Business Solutions Group, said in a statement that social software solutions need to “keep up with the pace of change to meet emerging business needs.” The research firm said that it expects social software to potentially replace other kinds of collaborative apps during this period of these next few years, as business needs and solutions continue to evolve.

Fauscette added that “companies will increasingly want to integrate and even embed social software into all enterprise applications,” and that it is “essential” vendors provide open application programming interfaces (APIs) and “capabilities to put social software into the enterprise workflow.”

IDC has identified key social enterprise software vendors as IBM, Jive Software, Communispace, Telligent, Socialtext, Mzinga, Lithium, Yammer, NewsGator and VMware.

Based in Framingham, Massachusetts, IDC provides market intelligence, advisory services, and events for IT, telecommunications and consumer technology markets, utilizing the services of over 1000 analysts.