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Gartner's social software predictions: Underscores roles of business and IT in enterprise deployments

Gartner published its five social software predictions for 2010 and beyond earlier this month. Certainly Gartner has a strong influence in the technology market, and its predictions has many of us thinking. For the most part, Gartner's on target with what are likely outcomes regarding the impact of social technologies on the enterprise.

We thought we'd add our two cents on some of its predictions, based on what we're hearing from our customers.

Gartner says: "Success in social software and collaboration will be characterized by a concerted and collaborative effort between IT and the business."

We say: This is no different than any other IT endeavor. Replace "social software and collaboration" with ECM, BI, CRM, and you see what I mean. Of course, there needs to be a concerted effort between IT and the business, but the success of social software and collaboration within an enterprise must be distributed more evenly across the organization.

For example, social knowledge networks (SKNs) allow non-technical business users to create and manage their own information access and content sharing environment.

They provide a low-cost stepping stone from network drives and wikis (minimal IT involvement, but limited capabilities), to larger footprint enterprise content management or enterprise search deployments (expensive and IT-dependent). This essentially allows more users to be engaged, business benefits derived more quickly with minimal IT support.

Gartner says: "Mainstream enterprises are unlikely to adopt standalone, single-purpose microblogging products."

We say: This is true. Just using microblogging, tagging, or forums isn't sufficient to sustain a viable E2.0 strategy. For many organizations, microblogging is just a component of a broader collaboration and knowledge management strategy. It is important not to separate out the key ingredients of a successful E2.0 deployment, or yes, it will have its challenges.

Gartner says: "Gartner recommends that organizations 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."

We say: And this just might be the biggest hurdle of all: " ... develop policies governing the use of consumer services for business purposes." The reason is that E2.0 is not a one size fits all solution. It must tailored to fit an individual organizations needs. As best practices evolve, more organizations will have a template from which to implement their own strategy.

But it is the early adopters, those that are using, developing, and creating policies around social software services, that are truly paving the way for enterprise social software use in the future.

Gartner says: "IT organizations will struggle with shifting from providing a platform to delivering a solution."

We say: This underscores the point that social software in the enterprise is not just another IT deployment. We continually hear the mantra that E2.0 is about people, process, and technology. It must take into account business culture, regulations, existing policies, procedure, and of course, focus on the business problem at hand.

For example, SKNs create virtual environments organized around business processes or objectives, such as product innovation, proposal development, or competitive intelligence. By bringing together content, people, and tools for information access and discovery, the organization is better equipped to increase productivity, foster innovation, and improve the retention and preservation of knowledge.

What are your thoughts on Gartner's predictions? Let us know in the comments.

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