Social collaboration tools gain ground as organisations refresh IT

Social collaboration tools are gaining some ground in enterprise IT in the face of senior management resistance

Social collaboration tools are gaining some ground in enterprise IT in the face of stern senior management resistance.

Recent research by Vanson Bourne, sponsored by Avanade – a Microsoft-centric IT services firm with an interest in promoting collaboration tools – shows an upturn in interest in using social networking tools for business purposes.

Andy Hutchins, director, collaboration at Avanade reports a significant uptick in interest in enterprise collaboration tools in the last six months, much of it connected with comprehensive IT refreshes as UK organisations emerge from recession.

But he conceded that it is early days for the increase and that while oil and gas, and product companies are leading the way in the technology, his own firm is not seeing a similar intensification of interest in the public sector or financial services. 

“There are some public sector organisations looking to bring this [kind of technology] in," Hutchins said.

The research, conducted among 5,000 IT professionals and end users of internally focused social media tools, found:

  • 37% of respondents said that the main barrier for not adopting enterprise social networking tools is a lack of support from senior management
  • 48% said that their company does not need social networking tools because it does not fit their corporate needs
  • 83% of respondents currently using social technologies said that they would want to use more in the future
  • 63% of respondents’ main reasons for wanting to adopt social networking tools is the ability to find information faster

Hutchins explained that, with the survey, Is enterprise social collaboration living up to its promise? they were trying to get beyond the headlines about social media to find out what businesses were doing. 

"We’re familiar with these tools in our daily lives, but are we really using them for business?” he said.

In addition, he said, are companies and organisations using social media tools in compliance with internal or external governance and to strategic effect?

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Hutchins draws a distinction between an older generation of collaboration tools that store documents, such as SharePoint and newer ones, like Yammer or Huddle, which are “more about interactive discussion”.

He said his firm has seen an increase in interest, in the last six to nine months with SharePoint 2013, Microsoft’s acquisition of micro-blogging tool Yammer, and the hosted online service Office 365.

“There is a maturing of technologies like cloud, mobile, social, and BYOD that adds up to a tipping point. Now is the right time. There is a demand for discussion around work processes, and a desire to bring in knowledge from the extended organisation of partners, and so on. And to do it securely, on any device," he said.

Nevertheless, the research showed significant scepticism among senior managers about the strategic value of social media.

“There was an element among the senior managers surveyed that this kind of technology is time wasting. They need to see the value, for instance, of connecting experts to furthering business goals, as in the oil industry or pharmaceuticals," he said.

“More than half of the respondents do see the business value. And while younger workers are more comfortable with the new tools and ways of working the use has to be cross-generational to get the value.

“This does, however, require IT to be responsive."

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