Let’s clear up any misconceptions from the start: social enterprise apps are not just Facebook and LinkedIn used for business purposes.
Social enterprise apps are built specifically for internal networking purposes. They group people and information based on multiple attributes that can be defined and searched by users to connect to groups of experts.
The market will grow rapidly through 2016. We estimate that it will hit US$ 6.4 billion in revenue. Adoption will be most rapid in businesses where information and collaboration are highly valued -- for example, professional services and healthcare.
As social enterprise apps mature and become a primary destination for info workers to do their jobs, the following will happen:
Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) will become an integrated network or application layer service.
As social grows in importance, the communications paths that it depends upon will become more commoditized, likely being absorbed into the network foundation or the application layer within large enterprises. Both of these strategies enable social apps to access UC&C capabilities from the social layer -- the evolutionary path by which social enterprise apps will subsume UC&C.
Social enterprise apps will surround UC&C and include enterprise grade characteristics.
Only a few social enterprise vendors have standard integrations to existing enterprise communications infrastructure. Transparent access to communication and management processes is required for businesses to widely adopt social enterprise apps.
Social enterprise app ecosystems will evolve.
A social enterprise app that is not connected to information and data about people and processes is useless, so social enterprise app vendors will continue to work with an ecosystem of partners through open connections and application programming interfaces (APIs) to access other sources of data in order to build a rich social graph.
These connected social enterprise apps will help firms connect more people and processes -- across organizational, functional and corporate boundaries to enable trading partners -- so they can work together more effectively. Social enterprise app vendors will speed the development and delivery of new capabilities -- and thus info worker adoption and IT acceptance -- by leveraging the power of a broad ecosystem.
Social will integrate into business processes and data.
Business application vendors such as SAP and salesforce.com are obviously starting by overcoming this objection within their core processes and then working to enable their social tools across other applications.
Leading companies offering social enterprise apps, such as Telligent, Jive, Yammer (Microsoft is reportedly negotiating to acquire Yammer) and Socialtext, provide a full set of capabilities from microblogs to social analytics, integrated with a wide variety of existing enterprise applications and platforms to provide a "social layer" to evaluate and access all types of information across a firm.
Companies such as Atlassian take advantage of this by offering low-cost, high-value integrations between social tools and other business infrastructure, while NewsGator has built added capabilities to improve the collaborative experience of Microsoft SharePoint.
Social enterprise app vendors will monetize products and processes.
Many public social networks are free to users and rely on revenue streams from advertisers, games developers or corporate IT solutions to manage and secure business-centric social applications. Generating revenue from the data contained in social graphs will be the key to profitability for social enterprise app vendors. Social enterprise app vendors will be able to charge for their solutions only when those solutions leverage the social graph within firms and make connections and recommendations based on that information.
Social enterprise apps are meeting many rapidly evolving needs of information workers on high-performance teams, attracting interest from empowered users and business unit management. Accelerating collaboration and improving team performance will drive business value and interest in social enterprise apps. The old "information is power" paradigm will be broken, and radical transparency will create value.
Many social enterprise app vendors are early on in their journey to comprehend the requirements of corporate IT organizations, such as compliance and interoperability -- which are required to gain wider, cross-organizational deployments within large enterprises.
Once issues such as usability, interoperability, security and affordability are addressed, social enterprise apps will connect communication, collaboration, business data and applications for less empowered workers who need IT's support before adopting new tools for work. Forrester expects social enterprise apps to be a rapidly growing segment of the enterprise application market.
Editor's Note: To read more about the social enterprise: