Over the course of the past year, the pace of change in the social collaboration space rivals that of Star Trek’s Enterprise.

Enterprise_46357502_33f9d052ce_q.jpgIt’s a market that has continued to accelerate at light speed throughout the year. Technology innovation has continued apace with the addition of social workflows. Application development and integration tools are evolving rapidly. Lots of new companies have entered the market. The few that have exited have done so spectacularly.

More than anything else, 2012 brought an understanding of the role that the social collaboration toolset brings to the enterprise. The Social Enterprise discussion is now about use cases -- real business value --instead of a mystical benefit from having microblogging in an organization.

With all the changes, a few stick out above all the others. Some examples of the trends and progress made over the course of the year were:

Social collaboration goes mainstream

Over the course of the past year, we have seen social collaboration and communication features widely deployed through a diverse set of organizations. ESG research shows that a majority of organizations have deployed some type of collaboration solutions either as a suite, such as an enterprise social network, integrated into an enterprise application or as a standalone sharing or communication tool.

Yammer exits for US$ 1billion

Is this massive market validation or massive overpaying on the part of Microsoft? At this point, it’s hard to tell what return on investment Microsoft will see on the Yammer acquisition. Still, it sure seems that even a company as rich as Microsoft wouldn’t spend one billion dollars on an acquisition that wasn’t strategic. I’m going with both overpaying and validation.

The various lines of social collaboration begin converging on a point

At the moment, offline collaboration features such as microblogging and task sharing are merging with real-time tools, especially video collaboration and web conferencing. Citrix, with Podio and GoToMeeting, Microsoft with Lynx and Yammer (not to mention Sharepoint), and Cisco with Webex Social and Webex Meetings are examples of the combination of the two common strains of collaboration. Jive’s recent acquisition of Meetings.io continues the trend.

Vendors start to think that it might be good if the Social Enterprise was enterprise grade

At the beginning of the year, a hard look around at the social collaboration space or any part of the Social Enterprise showed products that were dynamic, fresh and useful but not really fit for a mid-sized or large enterprise. Nowhere was that more evident than with regulatory compliance and e-Discovery, essential concerns for many corporations.