Enterprise Social Networking Software Receives Lackluster Ratings, Says Study

By | Mar 7, 2012

Enterprise social networking (ESN) software facilitates communication between employees and departments and provides an efficient platform through which coworkers can collaborate and share information. According to a new study from Altimeter Group, however, businesses are failing to recognize the benefits that ESN software provides.

To determine how ESNs were received in the workplace, Altimeter Group surveyed 81 IT decision makers from companies with more than 250 employees and interviewed 13 technology vendors and 185 end users. Altimeter found that, while businesses were at first enthusiastic about the possibilities associated with ESNs, companies saw moderate to minimal value in the software after initial deployment.

According to Altimeter, the problem is not with ESNs, but with how businesses interpret the purpose of social networking software within the workplace. "Most companies approach enterprise social networks as a technology deployment and fail to understand that the new relationships created by enterprise social networks are the source for value creation," states the report.

On average, companies believed sharing best practices and facilitating collaboration between and within departments were the most important goals associated with ESN deployment. But businesses found that the software did not meet their expectations; on average, companies thought that ESN software only moderately helped them close in on the aforementioned objectives within the organization.

Altimeter also found that most companies felt their organization did a poor job of measuring the impact of ESNs. Of the 44 companies, 33 percent said that their organizations assessed the benefits of enterprise social networking very poorly; 35 percent said somewhat poorly. None of the companies believed that their organization measured the impact of ESN very well. Despite the lackluster ratings given to ESNs from the surveyed companies, the software can provide valuable benefits to midsized businesses--so long as its properly deployed.

One of the greatest advantages of enterprise social networking software is that it promotes the sharing of knowledge and expertise between employees. Interestingly, although some businesses were reluctant to allow employees to share non-work-related information, Altimeter found companies that allowed employees to engage in personal discussion came closer to meeting their objectives than did companies that prohibited personal communication via social networking.

Midsized businesses can also use ESNs to quickly resolve problems and streamline operations. Altimeter states that at Deloitte Australia, "Most of the organization's knowledge is captured [in the ESN], so they end up using Yammer as an 'Internal Google' to find answers to questions."

The key to achieving the most out of ESN software is to determine where communication is lacking, set clear goals for deployment, and continue to monitor the affect of ESN on the organization over the long-term. For the best results, companies should also consider getting executives involved with ESN and offer incentives to encourage employees to use social networking in the workplace.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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