What social enterprise did next

General manager of IBM social business Alistair Rennie kicked off the Connect 2013 Lotusphere symposium this week in what is the event’s twentieth year.

After an 8am opening live music set by ‘quirky popsters’ They Might Be Giants, Rennie and his team spent time analysing the trends currently driving social business before bringing out IBM’s latest product announcements in this zone.

IBM (as we shall detail below) is pushing forward in the social enterprise space as hard as it can which may appear unusual to some, given the firm’s arguably more high profile heritage in servers, desktops and global consulting services.

That being said, Notes has been around for a while now connecting people – love it or hate it as you may.

The touch enabled boardroom

A cautionary word is needed here… as impressive as these tools are, one can’t help wondering how we managed to get all the way to 2013 without touch-enabled boardroom table displays that integrate with tablet devices for group collaborative real time data analysis.

Whatever happened to meetings, pencils and paper notepads, cups of tea and plates of biscuits?

More business relationships forged online

Well tea and biscuits do all still exist of course, but the rise of social enterprise is something we can’t deny. Another truth we can not now deny is the fact the more and more business relationships are being formed online in the first instance.

IBM is demo-ing the latest capabilities of its Connections suite, platform and toolsets (it is all of those), but before we look deeper, let’s step back and ask what social business tools actually look like.

Existing both inside and outside of an organisation’s firewall, social enterprise tools take a variety of forms: some being customer-facing, some not.

The kind of social enterprise tools IBM is championing include:

* Blogs and microblogging services

* Wikis and databases

* Workflow activity streams and “ideation”

* Community discussion forums

* Tagging and bookmarking tools

* Content recommendation engines

* People recommendation engines

NOTE: Yes, we did just say ideation, many apologies to the Oxford English Dictionary.

If you think plain old meetings and cups of tea will still suffice; consider IDC’s estimation of worldwide revenue for the enterprise social software market: it was £488 million in 2011 and it is growing by more than a 33.3% every year just now.

Who’s the social daddy?

As of 2011, a total of 30% of the social enterprise market was owned by IBM, Jive Software and Communispace, together accounting for 30% of the market total.

Mike Rhodin, senior VP of software solutions told the Lotusphere 2013 audience how he sees the social enterprise market breaking down.

“If you look at many of the other firms in the social enterprise space they are smaller web-based entities operating with ‘fremium’ models. In terms of real business and solid market share, IBM has been number #1 in this market for the last three years and this is a position we do not plan to relinquish.”

The question then surely is… what factors will now shape is this marketplace?

“Social, information, mobile and cloud shouldn’t be considered in isolation as market forces,” said Linda Cohen, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “The convergence of these forces, which Gartner calls the Nexus of Forces, is what drives real business value. The Nexus of Forces converge in several ways: cloud, mobile and social solutions enable the distribution of information, social media usage and behaviour drive mobile and information solutions, and cloud can be a foundation for information, social and mobile solutions.”

IBM’s product announcements this week centre around updates to its IBM Connections platform, IBM Docs, IBM SmartCloud for Business and IBM Notes and Domino Social edition, you can read further analysis of these announcements on the Computer Weekly Developer Network.