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Microsoft says SharePoint isn't late to enterprise social networking

Juan Carlos Perez | March 21, 2012
Although enterprise social networking (ESN) products that replicate Facebook-like and Twitter-like functionality for workplaces have been around for about five years, Microsoft sees a big opportunity in that market, to which some feel the maker of Windows and Office has been slow to respond.

"We’ll assume they address that in the next version. The real question is how quickly they will be able to build and deliver the next great thing. For some customers, the ability to stay on the cutting edge is a significant driver, for others it will be less critical," he said.Larger vendors like Microsoft can offer ESN features as part of broader, integrated collaboration platform, but ESN vendors like Jive Software and Yammer are demonstrating that there is "significant market appetite for an independent pure-play solution in this space," he said."Microsoft is clearly committed to the space and with knowledge worker solutions that usually translates to a lot of market share for them. That said, many customers are looking for solutions that are faster moving or more vendor agnostic so there will be plenty of room for others to be successful for the foreseeable future," Koplowitz said.

Microsoft recently hired Harris Interactive to conduct a study about ESN usage and adoption. Harris Interactive polled 202 IT and business decision makers in U.S. companies with at least 1,000 employees, where an ESN is either already in place or in the process of being developed.

The Microsoft-sponsored survey found that 59 percent of respondents consider it "absolutely essential" or "extremely important" for ESN software to be integrated with their companies' existing infrastructure.

The study also found that security tops the list of ESN-related concerns, followed by integration with existing systems (66 percent), compliance (53 percent), governance (44 percent) and the ability to build custom applications for social networking (27 percent).

Regarding which types of communications ESN software should facilitate, 67 percent of respondents said instant messaging, followed by email (64 percent), video conferencing (62 percent), being able to "follow" people, documents or sites (51 percent), audio conferencing (47 percent), activity streams (34 percent), video sharing (33 percent), being able to "like" content or people (28 percent) and microblogging (26 percent).

In December, Forrester released a study forecasting that ESN software will grow at a compound annual rate of 61 percent through 2016, a year in which spending for these products will reach US$6.4 billion, compared with $600 million last year. Only 12 percent of information workers have access to enterprise social collaboration software, and only 8 percent of them use it at least once a week, according to the report.

In February, Altimeter Group published a report on ESN that concluded that most companies aren't implementing and using these products properly, leading to unmet goals. Missteps in planning and execution abound, and include not defining clearly the reasons for adopting ESN software and not analyzing properly usage metrics to monitor employee engagement. This in turn leads to problems, like a sharp drop in interest and usage after initial enthusiasm; strong adoption in only one department; confusion about proper use of the software, due in part to a lack of executive involvement; and lack of clarity and maturity of the organization's social business strategy and goals.


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