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Enterprise Social Network

Enterprise social networks (ESN) are online social platforms or software that enable employees to share business interests and activities through blogs, activity streams, discussion forums, groups and communities. They allow employees to share knowledge and resources, collaborate across geographies, improve business processes and even communicate with clients.

According to a report by the International Data Corporation (IDC), the global ESN market was valued at 0.6bn in 2010 and reached USD1.46bn in 2014. Over 2014–19, it is projected to grow at a CAGR of 19.1% to reach USD3.5bn by 2019.


Expectations on growth of social software & collaboration

In a study conducted among 884 CEO’s three areas for action were identified within Technology as being areas that are currently having the biggest impact on their organization and strategy:

  • Embrace disruption
  • Build shared value
  • Dare to be open

Three themes that correlate strongly with social and collaborative strategies and tools.

In terms of collaboration: Many of the interviewed organizations have been gaining experience with some form of collaboration with stakeholders, customers and employees already over the last few years but many indicate now being ready to take the next step and approaching it more holistically. It is expected by them that collaboration as a strategy will nearly double over the next 5 years.

Extent of collaboration with stakeholders

Today: 54 %
Next 3-5 years: 93%
That's 72% more
Partners/ Suppliers
Today: 49%
Next 3-5 years: 87%
That's 78% more
External Influences
Today: 33%
Next 3-5 years: 64%
That's 94% more

Usage of social software

In 2014, in a survey of 55 companies with more than 250 employees, the Altimeter Group found out that fewer than half the enterprise collaboration tools of the companies were being regularly used by their employees. Collaboration platforms such as IBM Notes, Jive and Sharepoint were mostly used, followed by enterprise social networks and community forums. In addition, employee advocacy platforms and community forums were considered to be of relatively less importance for companies. 66% of the companies had no plans to deploy employee advocacy platforms, while 33% voted that they had no plans to deploy community forums.

Overall Social & collaborative platforms performed the best in getting people involved.


Major players

There are plenty of players present in the market in the various verticals of social software products. Some of the major players have been classified into four categories in the following table.

Social Platform vendorsSoftware suite providersWikisSocial Enterprise Layers (supplements)
IBM: ConnectionsAtos: blueKiwi ZENSocialtext: SocialtextVMware: Socialcast
Microsoft: SharePoint Server 2013 / Office 365Jive Software: JiveAtlassian: ConfluenceTIBCO Software: tibbr
Oracle: WebCenter/OSNVerint Systems, Inc.: Telligent CommunityMediaWiki: MediaWikiSalesforce: Chatter
Microsoft: Yammer
Sitrion: Social Sites for SharePoint

Best practices for rolling out social software

Integration of social networking

  • Social software profiles should enable employees to know each other through pictures, background, experience, skills and interests. They should also enable them to see whom are their colleagues following and what have they been working on.
  • The platform should enable employees to share work and work updates and, thereby, reduce the unproductive time spent on informing each other of the progress of projects.
  • The platform should support users to share and contribute throughout the content creation process to allow for optimal collaboration.

Ease of use

The social software should be easy-to-use and only demand employees to be familiar with desktop and internet applications to use it. Employees should not have to undertake extensive training to learn how to use the software.

Customisable solution

  • The software should also allow companies and users to customise their environment by selecting information they want to have quick access to. They should also be able to adjust settings and modify their subscriptions as per their needs.

Integration across different platforms

  • To ensure high adoption rate, the software should be integrated with employees’ email applications & productivity tools like MS Office and IBM Notes. Users should be easily able to create a wiki page, or add content to an existing page
  • The solution should also be integrated with mobile devices to enable employees to collaborate on the go. This could be especially useful for those employees who are in direct contact with customers.
  • To enable employees to work offline, the solution should enable users to download information, read and edit content offline, and synchronize changes with the online database when they are online.
  • A key factor for using social software is to break down traditional collaboration boundries. The platform should therefor allow for exchange of information and collaboration with external parties like partners and or customers. For instance, by including a ‘guest – user’ model that allows for external users to be granted access to specific data in a secure and controlled way.

Ease of aggregating information

  • The platform should allow users to search content across the platform using keywords, page title or tags as well as do full text indexing on files and attachments
  • Its content pages should also support a wide range of content types like rich text, embedded images, video, links, and attachments, so that conversations are not limited to a single media format.
  • It should also have widgets to filter and access, sync and transfer information to sources such as emails, calendars, saved documents, news and information from media sources, blogs, microblogs and public social networks.

Femke_Study_1On-premises vs Cloud:

Solutions come in different forms with some supporting only software-as-a-service subscriptions (cloud) and others supporting on premises or even hybrid combinations as well. The choice for which platform should be based on organizational requirements, restrictions, available resources (support, administration, hardware, etc) and customization needs.

Often named factors for choosing either cloud or on premises are:

  • Restrictions:
    Depending on your industry sector, vertical market, or geographical location, you may have to abide by an array of government regulations determining how you use and store sensitive data. The healthcare and financial services industries are common examples of verticals in which IT has to take extra steps to prove to the government that sensitive data is secure
  • Security:
    In general, a case can be made that cloud security often surpasses the measures set out by private data centers but certain companies are dealing with data that requires more advanced security than a cloud provider can offer.
  • Visibility:
    Being able to control, see and be accountable for where sensitive data resides once it is created on a cloud platform is a problem for some companies. This will eventually be overcome by technology but is currently still a major factor for certain companies
  • Accessibility:
    Access to cloud services, especially there where bandwidth or government imposed restrictions on access to certain internet content are prevalent might be a problem to some. In those cases using private WAN connections to private data centers can be more reliant and consistent
  • Latency:
    Latency within private data centers and across private WAN connections is better controllable then accessing public cloud solutions where you are depending on the provider. On the other hand, cloud providers have every reason to make sure latency is not a problem and might actually do better in that respect.
  • Lack of trust:
    Trusting a cloud provider with your sensitive data is a difficult step for many IT executives. The idea that the provider’s allegiance and responsibility is not just with you but with their own company as well as other customers can be a major deterrent to some.
  • Resources:
    Availability of resources like hardware and personnel to manage, maintain and upgrade the environment. Training the IT department to administer and support a new application may involve high cost therefore the software-as-a-service subscription model could be preferred by some companies as it avoids investing up front in any one application.


  1. Worldwide Enterprise Social Networks and Online Communities 2015–2019 Forecast and 2014 Vendor Shares, IDC, July 2015
  2. Reinventing the rules of engagement, CEO insights from the Global C-suite Study, IBM 2016
  3. Why No One Uses the Corporate Social Network,, April 7, 2015
  4. Five best practices for enterprise collaboration success,, accessed on June 14, 2016
  5. Cloud Vs. On-Premises: 6 Benefits Of Keeping Data Private, InformationWeek, November 2015

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