SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The rapid adoption of enterprise social networking features in enterprise applications is going to continue because they are proven to increase sales, improve customer service, quicken product development and produce other business benefits, speakers at a conference here said.
"By 2020, we won't be talking about social applications because all applications have to be social," Michael Fauscette, IDC group vice president of software business solution, said at the E2 Innovate Conference and Expo held Nov. 12 to 15. "Every application is about a system of relationships. We have to connect people to get work done."
Fauscette pointed to recent IDC research to illustrate the increased use of enterprise social networks. In 2012, 67 percent of 700 companies surveyed in North America said they were deploying some kind of social media system, up from 47 percent in 2011.
Companies are using social media to interact with employees, customers or both, he said, and it has become an integral part of their decision-making process. And for companies unwilling to rip out legacy software systems that may be old, but are stable, some of them are augmenting those applications with social networking functions.
The return on investment (ROI) from social media should not be looked at in isolation, but by gauging the benefits to the underlying business process that it supports, said Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president of business and technical strategy for IBM Collaboration Services.
Citing a number of IBM customers as examples, Cavanaugh indicated that they have seen results in reduced time-to-market for new products, improved customer service, higher customer satisfaction scores and more productive sales forces.
One IBM customer, the global cement and concrete maker Cemex uses a social media layer in its organization to provide expertise where it's needed on a particular project, connecting a subject matter expert in one country with a project manager at a construction site in another.
He also says social media allows a company to take advantage of talent wherever it may be. Despite the weak economy, some countries are having difficulty finding technical talent for IT jobs because of changing demographics as more people retire and fewer people are qualified to take their places. Social networking can help find that scarce talent.
"We think this changes the definition of social," Cavanaugh said. "Social becomes less about seeing a notification and liking it and more about gathering information, using it to participate in a process and creating leadership."
Social also goes hand-in-hand with cloud computing as it aids in collaboration and sharing of documents among members of a work team, said Ben Fried, Google's chief information officer.
Google Docs, Gmail and other Google Apps are delivered through the cloud, making it possible for various people to access one document, change it and maintain one version of the document, Fried said.
Now, Google team members share documents as a link in an email, he said, rather than send an attachment of a Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint document that takes up more room on a corporate network.
Google recently integrated its Google Drive documents storage feature with its Google+ social media platform.
Cloud computing, along with enterprise social networking, needs to replace the unsustainable software business model in which enterprises spend millions of dollars to procure software, update it, update their antivirus protection, and maintain hardware and other systems.
"The enterprise software game is a racket, and we are the suckers," said Fried. "This has to change. The way to change is to move your commercial software, and your build software, to the cloud."