Many large companies are embracing internal social networks, but for the most part, they are not getting much good from them, according to analyst firm Gartner.
By 2016, some 50 percent of enterprises “will have internal Facebook-like social networks,” and 30 percent of these will be considered to be as crucial as email and telephones, a Gartner study announced on Tuesday states.
“Businesses need to realize that social initiatives are different from previous technology deployments,” said Carol Rozwell, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “Traditional technology rollouts, such as ERP or CRM, followed a “push” paradigm. Workers were trained on an app and were then expected to use it. In contrast, social initiatives require a “pull” approach, one that engages workers and offers them a significantly better way to work. In most cases, they can’t be forced to use social apps, they must opt-in.”
This means that the leaders of social business initiatives need to shift their emphasis away from deciding which technology to implement. Instead they should focus on identifying how social initiatives will improve work practices for both individual contributors and managers. They need a detailed understanding of social networks: how people are currently working, who they work with and what their needs are.
“There is too much focus on content and technology, and not enough focus on leadership and relationships,” said Ms. Rozwell. “Leaders need to develop a social business strategy that makes sense for the organization and tackle the tough organizational change work head on and early on. Successful social business initiatives require leadership and behavioral changes. Just sponsoring a social project is not enough — managers need to demonstrate their commitment to a more open, transparent work style by their actions.”
However, through 2015, 80 percent “of social business efforts will not achieve the intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology,” according to the report.
That’s because social software doesn’t work like an ERP (enterprise resource planning) application, which uses a “push” mentality, wherein workers “were trained on an app and then were expected to use it,” Gartner said.
Social software involves a “‘pull’ approach, one that engages workers and offers them a significantly better way to work,” the report adds. “In most cases, they can’t be forced to use social apps — they must opt-in.”
A series of conditions must be present for social software to be successful, including a “meaningful and specific purpose,” “a critical mass of colleagues actively using it,” and integration with other applications workers are using, Gartner said.
The report comes after the enterprise social software market has already undergone some significant changes. Many independent providers have been snapped up by larger players, while other big vendors such as Oracle have developed social networking software of their own.
CRM (customer relationship management) vendor Salesforce.com has gone even further, reorienting its general strategy around the theme of social business.
While most companies’ social software projects lack maturity, “lessons are already being learned and better practices are emerging,” Gartner said.
Still, customers just starting out with social software should be careful when they choose their first pilot, “since it will set the tone for subsequent initiatives,” the report adds.
More detailed analysis is available in the report “Predicts 2013: Social and Collaboration Go Deeper and Wider.”