Where Are All the Enterprise Social Media Apps?

Enterprises want to know what the business case is before they begin buying.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.-If the concept of social media is to make an impact on the enterprise, it needs to be customized or built for business, and few products currently fill that bill.

Employees are using social media tools, but new ones need to be developed and the enterprise still wants to know what the business case is for these applications, said Ajay Gandhi, senior director for enterprise social computing at BEA Systems and a member of a panel speaking Jan. 29 at the WebGuild Web 2.0 conference here.

"The use of social media applications in the enterprise is currently being determined by workers, who simply download and use them," said Robert Rueckert, a senior investment manager at Intel Capital who focuses on Internet startups. "Their IT departments are now recognizing this and looking to consolidate those tools and make them useful for everyone in the organization."

New tools need to be developed that are enterprise-specific and that are a lot more secure and able to follow a corporate compliance and governance policy, Rueckert said.

Click here to read about how startup Huddle.net plans to integrate with Facebook to offer business-oriented social networking.

The companies having the most success are those providing enterprises with useful solutions, but there is a shortage of these, Rueckert continued, noting that there has been much talk about a "Facebook for the enterprise" type of application, but one has yet to emerge. "Many enterprises are trying to build these on their own," he said.

Facebook for the enterprise

BEA has plans to unleash in 2008 an enterprise version of a Facebook-like solution called AquaLogic Interaction, which is based on the former Plumtree Foundation and Plumtree Corporate Portal technologies, Gandhi said.

AquaLogic Interaction will let enterprises do social networking within their environment, and will have a connectivity feed, profile pages and ways for people to connect to one another in a way that allows the type of dynamic collaboration not available today, he said.

"Many of the social media applications that are now being used in the enterprise came from the consumer side and, over time, became part of the enterprise. But they need to be adapted to its specific needs, especially around security and governance," Gandhi said.

For its part, Salesforce.com has introduced Ideaforce, a feedback platform where users can debate and vote on the new feature or enhancement they most want included in the next product release, said Anshu Sharma, senior director of platform strategy at Salesforce.com.

"The enterprise wants social media applications that allow them to connect information that can then be extracted and used in a meaningful way," Sharma said.