The success of consumer social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc have forced the businesses to provide enterprise social networking within the organizations as employees are asking for such platforms and if not provided employees are using free social networks which is risky for the businesses as they lack control.
networks are social networks deployed internally within the business
organizations where access is limited to their employees and limited number of
stakeholders like consumers, etc and are tightly controlled through strict
policies by company management. Enterprise social networks have seen good
adoption since past few years and these networks include Facebook styled
profile pages that highlight employee expertise, interest, hobbies, activity
streams and updates, blogs, wikis, communities, forums, RSS feeds, bookmarks,
video/photo sharing and other tools that help employees within the organization
spread across the world to communicate, collaborate and share knowledge and
information and break barriers erected in multi national companies. Business to
Business and Business to Consumers communities can also be built on the
enterprise social networking platforms that allow sharing, collaborating and
participate in the business related conversation and projects. Mostly IT and
Internet Companies are at the forefront of enterprise social network adoption
and traditional companies like manufacturing, etc have yet to adopt these
Forrester predicts explosive growth for the enterprise social software from 2011 revenues of US$ 600 million to US$ 6.4 billion by 2016 which is a CAGR of 61%. It also predicted that new social enterprise applications that allow systematic grouping of employees, information and processes will deliver good return on investment when compared to previous generation of collaboration apps like email, instant messaging, and videoconferencing that are called Unified Communications & Collaboration. According to Gartner Research, the worldwide market for enterprise social software will top $769 million in 2011, up 15.7% from the $664 million spent in 2010; $578 million spent in 2009 and predicts revenues will reach US$ 1 billion by 2012. IDC forecasts that enterprise social software market will generate revenues of nearly $2 billion by 2014, which is a CAGR of 38.2% over the 2009-2014 forecast periods. Research firms predict a significant growth in enterprise social network revenues in the near future as more and more business organizations start adopting these platforms internally for their employees. Surveys by Forrester and Altimeter Research have highlighted that despite having attention of the management, adoption is slow but increasing and management’s have yet to be convinced of the potential of enterprise social networks in terms of productivity and profitability.
Similar to email that changed the way employees communicate within the organization; enterprise social networks will change the way employees interact, collaborate, and share information and knowledge that is critical for their performance improvement and organizational profitability. These platforms bring a personal touch to communication, sharing and collaboration process and motivate employees who are geographically dispersed and with different socio-cultural backgrounds by creating a sense of empowerment, also through employee profile pages employees and management can know about the expertise, interests and collaborate in key projects and transfer knowledge and finally play a critical role in organizational innovation and development as employees share their knowledge, best practices, streamline processes by avoiding duplication, wastages and provide ideas for the development of the products and services. This will finally lead to improved products and services, improved communication and collaboration with customers which will help in improving their satisfaction and improved organization reputation and profitability. Engaging employees in the innovation and idea generating process is one of the crucial activities being done by most of the businesses today be it large or small and the enterprise social networks will act as a backbone for such initiatives. Along with enterprise social networks, consumer social networks presence is also critical for the businesses and businesses have to find a way to securely integrate the consumer and enterprise social networks for better results.
Businesses are just looking at enterprise social networking as a collaboration and communication tool for employees but not as a tool that will help in faster decision making, business process improving, employee retention and a tool that help in reducing the email volumes and meetings costs. Businesses too are not convinced about the return on investment or business value that these platforms generate and because of this the spending is very low on these tools, after initial euphoria there has been reduction in focus and there is not serious effort from the management to measure the impact of these platforms. Lack of active participation of the employees and lack of proper training, understanding of the significance of the enterprise social networking in terms of improving their performance, productivity and organizational performance is also slowing down the adoption of enterprise social networks. Some of the businesses are offering gifts and other incentives to encourage employee participation but with limited success. There also need to be an organization policy and guidelines for employees for avoiding the misuse and other problems. Businesses also need champions, responsible for monitoring, controlling and initiating the various activities on the enterprise social networks and champions should be selected from all the levels of organization including the management executives and they should be active.
Enterprise Social Networks is a major trend and the businesses have to change their approach in implementing this platform by looking at it a source of business value creation and formulate policies & strategies for increased participation of employees and use it a transformational tool for overall organization development. They are just looking at it as a mere technology without having any performance metrics for measuring the impact. The constant communication and collaboration will generate knowledge, streamline processes and increase the flow of information across hierarchical levels within the organization. Management can interact with employees at all the levels and the two way communication will be a major advantage for management to understand employee concerns and for employees to understand management plans and strategies. For the success of enterprise social networks, top management and executive sponsorship is a must and their regular participation is also necessary. Like the way consumer social networks changed the way people communicate with family and friends, voice their opinions and share information and knowledge, enterprise social networks too have the potential to change the organization communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing processes by removing communication barriers between the employees and the management and together work for attaining the organizational goals.