Worldwide enterprise social software revenue is on pace to total US$664.4 million in 2010, a 14.9% increase from 2009 revenue of $578.2 million, according to Gartner, Inc. The market is poised for continued growth in 2011 when revenue is forecast to reach $769.2 million, up 15.7% from 2010.
Enterprise social software enables participation through formal and informal interactions and aggregates these interactions to reflect the collective attitudes, dispositions and knowledge of the participants. Technologies include blogs, communities, discussion forums, expertise location, feeds and syndication, social bookmarks, wikis, and integrated platforms/suites.
"The social software market is evolving in response to the demand for flexible environments in which participants can connect, create, share, and find people and information relevant to their work," says Tom Eid, research vice president at Gartner. "Social software improves the connectedness of workers, promotes collaboration and helps capture informal knowledge. Social software excels in business contexts that leave room for individuals to interact informally, brainstorm, explore ideas, and encourage or challenge peers. Specific business value can be derived through customer intimacy, product/service excellence, operational effectiveness and creating innovation."
Social software technologies can create business value by: driving changes in interpersonal interactions; improving operational efficiency and effectiveness; raising organizational performance; and leveraging internal and external social networks.
Cloud-based and software as a service (SaaS) delivery continue to be key adoption factors, and of the more than 80 vendors that Gartner tracks for this marketplace, more than 50 provide social software through cloud-based and SaaS delivery. Cloud-based and SaaS models have many potential advantages for social software deployments as buyers of these services tend to be business executives with specific marketing, R&D or HR budgets. Cloud-based and SaaS offerings have also opened up access to collaboration and social software technology to small and midsize businesses that would not otherwise consider on-premises deployments.
Aligned to the technology maturation of the enterprise social software market is the relative business maturity and business benefits that organizations are now deriving. Features such as blogs, bookmarks, discussion forums, presence, profiles, rating engines, tagging and wikis are now being combined into applications designed for specific business outcomes, including product reviews and testing, brand marketing, community development and other purposes.
"Success is to be found in managing the information and relationships in support of business initiatives and not the simple deployment of technology," says Eid. "One of the major goals is to capitalize on community involvement to drive higher leverage and productivity."
Some deployments are more focused on internal users, with an emphasis on integration with existing infrastructure, business applications and other enterprise requirements. Others target internal communities of interest, aiming to capture and diffuse organizational knowledge, while others focus on branded external customer communities with good support for large deployments, consumer engagement and management of user-generated content. In all scenarios, social software improves the connectedness of workers, promotes collaboration and helps capture informal knowledge.
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