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Riding the Rapids — All Aboard!

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enterprisewideI recently wrote about a new report from The McKinsey Global Institute that forecast the value of the social economy. Among the highlights, it projected the following:

  • Crowdsourcing and co-creation technologies could improve knowledge worker productivity by as much as 25%.
  • The ROI of this investment would be between $900 billion and $1.3 trillion.

Salesforce.com has just helped companies in that worldwide social economy take one giant step towards realizing these numbers. The service, called Salesforce Communities, launched after a recently completed pilot program. It enables a company to create a secure, private enterprise-wide network that includes the entire value-chain, from suppliers to customers. This puts a new spin on CRM  and adds everyone to the relationships a company needs to manage.

Salesforce Communities is just one of many applications vying for a share of this relatively young enterprise-level collaboration marketplace. (For an example of how this far-reaching enterprise-level social media can be used, take a look at this Salesforce.com video.)

Forrester Research indicated that many of the companies are either already using or plan to use online collaboration software within the next two years. In response to this trend, Forrester Wave also published its first report containing an in-depth evaluation of Salesforce Communities as well as seven other providers of online social collaboration technologies.

These include the following:

  • Box
  • Google Drive
  • Microsoft’s Skydrive Pro
  • Cisco Systems Versly
  • Citrix Online ShareFile and Podio
  • IBM Connection SmartCloud
  • Yammer

The evaluation looked at a number of critical areas of concern about online social networks including security, privacy, cultural fit, provider experience, and stability.

In a recent ZDNet post, T.J.Keitt wrote the following for Forrester Research:

We felt that it was important to look across a range of collaboration software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors to see how this nascent market was growing to meet these challenges. And it was essential that we do this now because this market is rapidly evolving into the collaborative backbone of mobile, distributed business ecosystems.

He went on to explain that, in addition to connecting employees into a social network to create the conversation, there is a growing need to establish “collaborative frameworks that include the rest of the business ecosystem in the conversation: channel partners, suppliers, and customers […] beyond the corporate firewall.”

The excellent report not only evaluated the eight currently leading providers in this rapidly evolving area, it also looked at what I believe are the more pressing questions: Are these providers helping drive what Forrester sees as a wave of online collaboration tool use, or are they moving too slowly away from the older on-site model in which email was the generally accepted central capability?

Are they enabling companies to create secure online conversations on specific topics? Does this collaboration reach across the entire value-chain and include all mobile devices from a simple, secure login? Or are the providers falling back on their email starting points and limiting the conversation to individuals who share a common email address? In the final analysis, are they driving this evolution or just taking a few steps forward from where they started?

I need your help answering a question: Is your company rafting along the rapids of online social collaboration, or are you still floating around in some safe and secure stillwater? I recommend listening in on the Forrester Research webinar on September 10hosted by John and Forrester for a more in-depth review of the Wave report.

Source: “The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies,” McKinsey Global Institute, July 2012
Source: “The Forrester Wave: Cloud Strategies of Online Collaboration Software Vendors, Q3 2012,” Forrester Research, 08/16/12
Source: “Are online collaboration tools ready for your business?,” ZDNet, 08/17/12