Social Networking and the Enterprise

Many of you may recall how, in the mid- to late-1990s, email was considered "a toy" in many companies. Technology was still evolving, the prominence of the Internet was still coalescing, and server-based email solutions such as Microsoft Exchange were still in their infancy. Consider the ever-present and even addictive nature of email today, and we find many organizations where email has become mission critical.

The email wave was followed by the instant messaging wave, which has taken a similar path, coming approximately five years behind the email wave. Until several years ago, instant messaging was just something for young people to use, but not a serious technology for the enterprise. While parts of Europe and much of Asia still see instant messaging in this way, enterprise instant messaging and presence solutions such as Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS), IBM Sametime, and Cisco Jabber have become a very real part of corporate messaging deployments throughout North America. Companies use instant messaging extensively for back-channel chats and for quick communications in lieu of email, and presence-enablement is starting to find its way into business applications.

We see social networking technologies as the third such wave, following the instant messaging wave by another five years. Currently most enterprise IT departments view social networking as a consumer application -- essentially as a "toy" from a corporate perspective -- though we are starting to see companies paying attention to Facebook, Twitter, and similar technologies. Whether trying to provide 140-character tweets to a rapidly growing audience, updating one's Facebook status via a BlackBerry client, or simply networking through LinkedIn. We expect social networking technologies for the enterprise to start appearing in familiar applications, and social networking connectors like that announced by Virgin Mobile several months ago to increase in prominence. And we expect the evolution of social networking technologies to become mainstream in the enterprise within three to five years.

Our recommendation, then, is that companies should be planning ahead when it comes to compliance, data leak protection, and overall manageability around social networking technologies over the coming few years. We are seeing many organizations block (or attempt to block) popular social networking sites today, but expect this will only be a temporary phase in many cases, giving way to certain subsets of business-related social networking technologies as they emerge and are proven to add value to business.

... David Sengupta

One Comment

  1. Posted July 21, 2009 at 3:04 AM | Permalink

    Hi David,

    Totally agree with you. Blocking isn’t going to be an option in the future for companies – it would be like a company today telling employees to simply not use email (though many have tried 🙂 ). One area of innovation to watch is companies like that are helping companies build enterprise social networks that can be controlled and managed by the company.


  2. Posted July 22, 2009 at 3:19 AM | Permalink

    Good article. We’ve been putting Email and Jive Clearspace/SBS business social software into organisations for a while.

    We have just deployed an XMPP platform that aggregates IM and social messaging. It archives IM and micro-blogging (eg twitter) and we’re close to offering content filtering (for DLP etc) as well.

    I’ve written a couple of articles on this subject, email, XMPP and Google Wave;

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