Businesses discover social software

Corporations are opening up to a range of business and social networks

Shrinking returns from business automation and the impact of Web 2.0 are conspiring to revolutionise the workplace and change the way we do business forever, according to Jeff Mann, research vice-president at Gartner.

Mann said that social interaction is the way most value is delivered in the modern work environment and predicted that by 2012, the primary role of business networks will be to support social interactions, not routine business transactions.

Demand for improved information-sharing along business functions is already driving solid growth for collaboration technologies, reflected in the growth of the enterprise social software market. Gartner estimated that the worldwide enterprise social software market revenue will reach $US226.9 million in 2007 and will increase to more than $US707.7 million by 2011, reaching a 41 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2006 to 2011.

At present, e-mail is the most widely used tool for collaboration but its use is so prolific that, at times, it has the opposite effect as users can't recognise important messages from noise. Mann said that other social software applications, such as wikis, discussion forums, and blogs have the advantage of providing user-friendly and flexible ways to aggregate, organise, share, and amplify the value of personal knowledge and experiences.

Organisations need to open up to a wider collection of business and social networks, to allow a more collaborative and innovative workplace, Mann explained.

"Many IT leaders fear the consequences of opening up their organisations and the use of social networking as a business practice," he said. "But in order to innovate, businesses cannot concentrate solely on controlling what the users do and remain a closed shop. IT needs to loosen control without losing control, to allow good things to happen.

"IT must accommodate users' need for flexibility and openness while protecting the organisation from excessive risks. Businesses must accept that they will experience some inevitable failures to enable innovative projects to flourish."

Len Rust is publisher of The Rust Report.

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