Enterprise 2.0: Three Thoughts on the State of Social Software in Business

While more case studies of companies utilizing social software tools such as blogs, wikis and social networks were unveiled by IT practitioners and business leaders at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, many companies are still introducing themselves to the technologies.

1. Some Big Level Case Studies, But Most People Still In Early Stages

During the opening keynote of the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston last week, one of the event's lead organizers said that last year's attendees asked to see more case studies with Enterprise 2.0 in action rather than vendors pontificating about their products. As a result, they were treated to some high level demonstrations of companies and organizations implementing Enterprise 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis and social networks.

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These included the CIA and its Intellipedia project , Wachovia and its justification for using Enterprise 2.0 tools, and a demonstration of how Lockheed Martin rolled out social software tools to help the defense contractor enable collaboration across departmental lines.

Throughout the conference, however, many companies told CIO (mostly off the record) that they were still in the early stages with Enterprise 2.0. They were interested in rolling out Enterprise 2.0 tools in the coming year, but were using the conference as an opportunity to look at different products and learn from the challenges that the practitioners who spoke at the event experienced in their implementations.

Jonathan Yarmis, an analyst with AMR Research, also noted that the vendor to user ratio of attendees seemed tipped toward the former, adding, "The users who were there were early-stage types. [They were asking] 'What is E2.0?' and not so much 'how do I really deploy this stuff to transform my business?'"

2. Vendor Market (Relatively) Robust

This stat was touted several times throughout the event: The buying market for Enterprise 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis and social networks will grow to $4.6 billion by 2013, according to Forrester Research. On the vendor floor, it was easy to see why. There were approximately 50 (maybe a few more) vendors peddling enterprise wikis, blogs, RSS, social networking, and all of the above.

But it's important to remember something about the explosion of Enterprise 2.0 vendors and their place in the market. While the $4.6 billion in 2013 is no amount of money to scoff at, Forrester Analyst Oliver Young, the study's main author, told CIO back in April that number only accounts for a fraction (around 1 percent or less) of the enterprise software market. "It's a drop in the bucket," Young said at the time. "It's not very much in actuality."

Young was also careful to stress that these stats (including the $4.6 billion) were educated estimates. The number could rise if the popularity of these tools continue.

3. The Increased Presence of IBM and Microsoft

The presence of IBM (with its Lotus Connections social software) and Microsoft (with its Web 2.0 features in SharePoint) was fairly substantial, and perhaps served as a commentary on how much these Enterprise 2.0 technologies have challenged the conventional design and delivery of software. On the first day, the two vendors went head to head in comparing and contrasting their social software offerings.

IBM enjoyed good media reviews for the look and feel of Lotus Connections, while Microsoft had many of its customers display the use of SharePoint's social software features in the enterprise. In addition, Microsoft announced a series of partnerships that allows Enterprise 2.0 vendors (including smaller start-ups) to hook their "best of breed"products, such as a wiki or blog, into SharePoint more easily.

Forrester Research has predicted that these two vendors, armed with deep pockets, will dominate the Enterprise 2.0 and collaboration market. In addition, because both Microsoft and IBM have built their products to integrate with existing systems they built (such as Exchange and Lotus Notes), customers with those products might find their social software more attractive than offerings from start-up vendors.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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