What roles do social technologies play in facilitating collaboration? A new study by Avanade showed a large, but untapped opportunity to fully adopt and leverage social technologies for collaboration at work. 

The Rise of Social Work

It isn’t that surprising. After all, within the enterprise, many were slow to accept and adopt the role of social technologies, deeming them unnecessary or irrelevant. Over time, the prevalence of social tools have forced many companies to accommodate them, creating security challenges, as well workflow issues.

Last month, Avanade conducted a global research study, surveying 1,000 business and IT leaders and 4,000 employees about the impact of social technologies on enterprise collaboration. Overall, social collaboration is on the corporate agenda and the rate of new technology adoption is on the rise, but there’s still work to be done. 

The study found that the majority of IT decision-makers (87%), business leaders (67%) and end users (68%) report using enterprise social networking technologies, but most lack true enterprise collaboration capabilities. Furthermore, 82% of businesses currently using social collaboration tools want to use more of them in the future. 

Perhaps indicating that companies have yet to plateau after years of trying to catch with social collaboration practices, a majority of business and IT decision-makers (96 percent) reported that the rate of new technology adoption is increasing or staying the same. In fact only four percent reporteda decrease in the rate of adoption. Despite its rapid growth, however, most IT decision-makers (87 percent), business leaders (67 percent), and end users (68 percent) report using enterprise social networking technologies successfully at work.

Is There a False Sense of Accomplishment in Social Collaboration? 

Though they demonstrated confidence in their use of social technologies to facilitate collaboration, the report seems to indicate that it might be misguided.  According to the study, those who have adopted social networking technologies indicated using Facebook (74 percent) for collaboration at twice the rate of Microsoft SharePoint (39 percent), four times that of IBM Open Connections (17 percent), and six times that of Salesforce Chatter (12 percent). 

And the most widely used social technology for collaboration after Facebook? That would be Twitter. 

The last time we checked, neither Facebook nor Twitter have enterprise collaboration capabilities that allow sharing across teams, document storage, sharing and group editing, deep search of knowledge and experience inside an enterprise, and integration with enterprise communications systems, to name a few. 

And it isn’t all roses and rainbows for those using social collaboration tools. While early adapters continue to drink the social Koolaid, social skeptics have remained unswayed. One in five business and IT decision-makers (23 percent) have not adopted social collaboration tools in the enterprise. And among those decision-makers who have adopted, one-quarter (24 percent) believe their social collaboration tools waste time or distract employees from their core jobs. 

Is the Future of Enterprise Social Collaboration Doomed?

Despite these setbacks, there is still time to leverage opportunities afforded by social technologies. In fact, in the next 12 months, businesses indicated that they plan to shift from using consumer-driven social tools (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) to enterprise social collaboration tools (e.g. Microsoft SharePoint, Salesforce Chatter). 

Learning Opportunities

Yet, obstacles remain. Implementing these new tools will not be easy. More than one-quarter of decision makers say there is a lack of training to explain how to use such tools, and the same percentage reported a lack of IT department resources to implement them, despite the fact that the vast majority of IT leaders (77 percent) said they increased of kept IT budgets the same during the last 12 months.

In order to overcome these barriers to adoption and successful implementation, Avanade suggests a few best practices, including: 

  • Align technology investments and policies with the goals of the organization and the needs of the end user. 
  • Bring data together through unified solutions that provide users access to the information. 
  • Give employees the right tools to connect with each other. 
  • Invest in training, user education and change management 

Overall, companies need to see the forest through the trees. Social technologies are a means to an end. Separately, they can be idle chatter. Together, they have the power to facilitate meaningful conversations that can result in increased productivity. 

Illustration Credit: Shutterstock / rnl