Enterprise Social Software Spend Creeping Up to $1 Billion

Gartner research predicts the enterprise social software market will hit $769 million in 2011. The market is growing 15 percent a year and should top $1 billion through 2012.

The worldwide market for enterprise social software will top $769 million in 2011, up 15.7 percent from the $664 million spent in 2010, according to Gartner.

The 2010 total is up 15 percent from 2009's worldwide spend of $578 million, the researcher stated in a Dec. 16 report. At the current compound annual growth rate, ESS sales should reach the $1 billion mark by the end of 2012, barring any recession.

Gartner's broad definition of ESS includes blogs, wikis, communities, forums, RSS feeds, bookmarks and other tools that help knowledge workers communicate, collaborate and break through the many information silos erected in large businesses.

These tools are often combined into applications for product reviews and testing, brand marketing and community development, says Gartner analyst Tom Eid.

One practical solution would include a sales worker opening up a private wiki to invite colleagues to discuss how to target new clients via chat sessions. This might also include documents and other content sharing. Salesforce.com's Chatter solution, for instance, would help with these goals.

Another example: A new hire at an enterprise is looking to consult with a legal expert specializing in, say, corporate law. The hire could hop onto the intranet and let coworkers know what type of help he or she is looking for.

IBM's Lotus Connections, the first of its kind to take root among large enterprises, is well suited for such locating of expertise.

Eid said cloud or Web-based social software will continue to be key adoption factors.

Of the more than 80 vendors that Gartner tracks for this marketplace, more than 50 deliver ESS via software-as-a-service implementations. Salesforce.com and IBM are but two of the ESS providers Gartner covers. Socialtext, Socialcast and Jive Software have added social analytics to separate social signals from social media noise.

Good for cost-conscious companies, cloud-based and SaaS offerings "have also opened up access to collaboration and social software technology to small and midsize businesses that would not otherwise consider on-premises deployments," Eid says.

Jive, perhaps the leader among independent ESS providers, has added other tools to round out its portfolio. The company, which received a fresh infusion of funding this year, Dec. 16 launched its Jive Apps SDK to let developers build on top the existing Jive Engage Platform.

Even Microsoft has come on strong in ESS in 2010, lending more punch to the relatively nascent space. Gartner said the software giant has made significant improvements to its business social software capabilities in SharePoint 2010.