Gartner has revealed its key predictions on the use of social software and collaboration in the organisation. These predictions focus on offerings ranging from team collaboration to dynamic social networking applications that offer rich profiles and activity streams.

“A lot has happened in a year within the social software and collaboration space. The growing use of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook by business users has resulted in serious enterprise dialogue about procuring social software platforms for the business,” says Mark Gilbert, research vice president at Gartner and co-chair of the Portals, Content and Collaboration (PCC) Summit. “Success in social software and collaboration will be characterised by a concerted and collaborative effort between IT and the business.”
Gartner offers five key predictions for social software:
* By 2014, social networking services will replace e-mail as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20% of business users.
Greater availability of social networking services both inside and outside the firewall, coupled with changing demographics and work styles will lead 20% of users to make a social network the hub of their business communications. During the next several years, most companies will be building out internal social networks and/or allowing business use of personal social network accounts. Social networking will prove to be more effective than e-mail for certain business activities such as status updates and expertise location.
“The rigid distinction between e-mail and social networks will erode. E-mail will take on many social attributes, such as contact brokering while social networks will develop richer e-mail capabilities,” says Matt Cain, research vice president at Gartner. “While e-mail is already almost fully penetrated in the corporate space, we expect to see steep growth rates for sales of premises- and cloud-based social networking services. “
Gartner recommends that organisations develop a long term strategy for provisioning and consuming a rich set of collaboration and social software services, and develop policies governing the use of consumer services for business purposes. Companies should also solicit input from the business community on what collaboration tools would be most helpful.
* By 2012, over 50% of enterprises will use activity streams that include microblogging, but stand-alone enterprise microblogging will have less than 5% penetration.
The huge popularity of the consumer-microblogging service Twitter, has led many organisations to look for an "enterprise Twitter," that provides microblogging functionality with more control and security features to support internal use between employees. Enterprise users want to use microblogging for many of the same reasons that consumers do: to share quick insights, to keep up with what colleagues are doing, to get quick answers to questions and so on.
“However, it will be very difficult for microblogging as a stand-alone function to achieve widespread adoption within the organisation. Twitter's scale is one of the reasons for its popularity,” says Jeffrey Mann, research vice president for Gartner. “When limited to a single organisation, that same scale is unachievable, reducing the number of users who will find it valuable. Mainstream organisations are unlikely to adopt standalone, single-purpose microblogging products.”
* Through 2012, over 70% of IT-dominated social media initiatives will fail.
When it comes to collaboration, IT organisations are accustomed to providing a technology platform (such as, e-mail, IM, Web conferencing) rather than delivering a social solution that targets specific business value. Through 2013, IT organisations will struggle with shifting from providing a platform to delivering a solution. This will result in over a 70% failure rate in IT-driven social media initiatives. Fifty per cent of business-led social media initiatives will succeed, versus 20 per cent of IT-driven initiatives.
Organisations will need to develop entirely new skill sets around designing and delivering social media solutions. Until this happens, failure rates will remain high. A dearth of methods, technologies and tools will impede the design and delivery of social media solutions in the near term. But long term, organisations will realise that social media is not a "hit or miss" activity naturally prone to high failure rates, and that a calculated approach to social media solution delivery must be an IT competency. At that point, post 2012, the social software market growth will accelerate as will the overall impact of social media on business and society.
* Within five years, 70% of collaboration and communications applications designed on PCs will be modelled after user experience lessons from smartphone collaboration applications.
As we move toward three billion phones in the world serving the main purpose of providing communications and collaboration anytime anywhere, Gartner expects more end users to spend significant time experiencing the collaborative tools on these devices. For some of the world, these will be the first or the only applications they use. The experience with these tools for all who use them will enable the user to handle far more conversations within a given amount of time than their PCs simply because they are easier to use. Just as the iPhone impacted user interface design on the desktop, the lessons in the mobile phone collaboration space will dramatically affect PC applications, many of which are derivatives of decades-old platforms based on the PBX or other older collaboration paradigm.
“IT organisations should continue to procure leading-edge smartphones for testing and to accumulate knowledge on how the collaboration applications on such devices accomplish business tasks,” says Ken Dulaney, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. “As more organisations consider replacing desk phones with cell phones, they may wish to anchor their collaboration tools also on the cell phone.”
* Through 2015, only 25% of enterprises will routinely utilise social network analysis to improve performance and productivity.
Social network analysis is a useful methodology for examining the interaction patterns and information flows that occur among the people and groups in an organisation, as well as among business partners and customers. However, when surveys are used for data collection, users may be reluctant to provide accurate responses. When automated tools perform the analysis, users may resent knowing that software is analysing their behaviour. For these reasons, social network analysis will remain an untapped source of insight in most organisations.
Before undertaking a social network analysis, Gartner recommends that the organisation ensure that it has the trust and buy-in of the people it hopes to include in the analysis in advance. Issues of privacy and confidentiality must be addressed and a determination needs to be made regarding how the information will be used and communicated. Establishing the ground rules upfront will encourage more open and honest participation and reduce the resistance to ongoing relationship monitoring.