The Business Case for Enterprise Social Networks | FirstRain

The Business Case for Enterprise Social Networks

Social networking is the topic du jour. Facebook is going public at a gazillion dollar valuation; Jive market cap jumped 30% in the past few weeks because their charismatic CEO, Tony Zingale, got Barrons to say they are Facebook for the enterprise.

And no question, companies are deploying enterprise collaboration platforms fast, trying to keep up with the need for information sharing. One customer – a CIO – told me “we don’t know why but we’re going to do it anyway!”.

Given all this frenzy I was pleased to see a sensible report published last week on the business case for ESN – Enterprise Social Networks – written by Charlene Li and published by Altimeter. It’s full of advice on how to think about your deployment and your ROI.

We see a smorgasbord of options at our customers – some have SFDC (Salesforce CRM and sometimes Chatter), some have SFDC and Jive, some have Microsoft and Yammer, some have 3 or 4 around the globe – you name it, we see the mix. Some departments like one, some like the other, sometimes global likes one and the US likes another. It’s definitely a challenge. We have the advantage that because of our architecture we can easily integrate our customer intelligence into all, but I feel for the IT teams trying to administer so many choices.

This chart is the answer to “what is your primary enterprise networking solution?” across 77 companies who could only answer one.

Source: Altimeter report Making the Case for Enterprise Social Networks Feb 2012

But as the Altimeter report explains – workflow is the key issue. ESNs do encourage sharing – critical when you have a global sales team working on a global customer. They do capture knowledge, especially tribal knowledge about how the customer’s requirements are developing and how the market is impacting them. We get feedback all the time that our customer intelligence, integrated into Chatter and Jive, helps the sales team be smarter about what’s happening in their customer’s market.

The 3rd value an ESN brings is helping your sales team take action because they can find solutions faster by collaborating, then of course in the end an ESN is empowering when it is working well because your sales team has a voice (although what sales team doesn’t!).

Enterprise collaboration is on a roll right now. It’s good to see analysts helping IT teams cut through the chatter (pun intended) and evaluate the business value of their choices.