Making the Right Case for Social BusinessIn spite of a rash of vendors flooding the markets in recent years to help us "socialize" the business, many enterprise buyers still feel skeptical that an investment in social technology will deliver a sufficient return.

Our mandate at 451 Research is to analyze the impact of innovative and disruptive enterprise technologies. We look at social business in all its forms -- be it team collaboration, file sync and share, workforce management, etc.

Though we see a lot of innovation, we are not seeing that much disruption -- there is clearly a distance between enterprise buyers and technology vendors right now. It's a gap that we believe can be bridged in a number of ways, but will require work from both buyers and sellers alike.

Some of the technology vendors coming to market hold the position that "socially enabling" employees is a good thing in principal, and that therefore good things will likely happen. Others come from a position that what they see as first generation collaboration tools are in need of replacement, that systems like Microsoft Outlook/Exchange have outlived their usefulness. Yet others come from a position that future workers will demand consumer style simplicity when it comes to corporate communications.

Most of the new technologies approach social business from a mix of these starting points, and almost all believe that collaboration should be possible anywhere, anytime on any device. In some ways it has been a boom market with billions of dollars of investment and now literally hundreds of technology choices available. But few in this multitude of vendors are actually able to turn a profit.

Many enterprises are still skeptical of the business value of social business tools, and even the more enthusiastic often failing to get beyond pilot projects or to get the buy in of more than a couple of departments or work groups. To put it another way, they don't see the ROI (return on invest) -- they don't believe that the investment would deliver a sufficient return to justify it.

The Wrong Social Business Case

The enterprise clients I advise often tell me that there is no real business case for many of these new social technologies. I see their point as many vendors churn out weary old aphorisms like "The average worker spends X hours a week searching for the right information." News alert to vendors: buyers don't give a flying flip to these kind of arguments, they are decades old, based on cod science and have zero resonance.