"Super, then you'll have plenty to talk about!"

                                           Greg Marmalard, Animal House

Collaboration and social technologies continue to be hot in 2010. In Forrester's 2009 Enterprise Software Survey, we asked respondents to rate the following on a scale of 1-5:

How important are the following software initiatives in supporting your firm's current business goals?

          -Increase deployment and use of collaboration technologies

58% answered 4 or 5. In conversations with clients, it's clear that as we exit the current recession and enter a new economy, firms are betting on knowledge workers to drive competitive differentiation in the same manner that they bet on technology to drive efficiency in the early to mid-90's. The trend is particularly strong in North America and Western Europe where big bets are being made on innovation, design and other differentiation that will derive from more efficient, better connected knowledge workers.

This trend indicates high level, organizational goals and is likely to be more dependent on sociology than technology. The truth of the matter is that firms that have made large investments in collaboration, particularly social technologies, and have not made an accompanying investment in driving organizational and cultural change, have struggled. Why then, the trend toward investments in collaboration technologies?

The answer is that technology will support the efforts in a very significant way. And, in the case of social technologies, 2010 will be a break out year. Why? The market is clearly hungry for solutions and the vendors are poised to deliver.

A nascent, but very significant trend that will drive efficiencies and adoption is the social enablement of existing business processes. A number of vendors are betting on integration to enable social capabilities alongside existing technology investments. This attention to integration will create a major step forward for the Information Workplace which focuses on a highly integrated user experience that pulls content, collaboration, communication and line of business systems together in context for knowledge workers. Why is social so important to the evolution of the Information Workplace? Three reasons:

  • Social technologies are often designed from the ground up for integration. They tend to have open, well documented API's. This is in stark contrast to many existing knowledge worker technologies.
  • The social technology vendor landscape is still a land of opportunity. Rather than a small number of highly entrenched vendors, the landscape is populated by most of the large enterprise vendors (including those that are not currently large collaboration vendors) and a very vibrant community of smaller pure-play vendors. The crowded landscape will drive innovation.
  • Social offers opportunity to take existing businesses models and processes and transform them by bringing to bear more information and more expertise.

As 2010 unfolds social technologies will become increasingly positioned by vendors as not only standalone applications, but also as services that can be integrated into a broader Information Workplace. Expect the social vendors to approach this from one of three directions:

  • Pure-play social vendors will position their offerings for integration with existing technology offerings to "social enable" them. We have already seen these alliances on the ISV side. For example, Dassault Systemes has integrated with blueKiwi to add social capabilities to product lifecycle management. Telligent has seen success with system integrators using their offering to extend existing legacy systems. CubeTree, Jive, Twiki and others have disclosed similar strategies to integrate into heterogeneous computing environments through ISV, SI or IT level relationships.
  • Incumbent collaboration vendors will look to drive social technologies into their existing collaboration offerings. You don't have to look far to see the strategy from IBM/Lotus with regard to Connections, Microsoft in bringing social capabilities to SharePoint and Novell's play with Pulse. While each vendor differs in regard to the level that their social capabilities are bundled with other collaboration offerings, all offer a vision of a highly integrated collaboration offering that has the ability to integrate external data and processes. Look for Cisco and Google to jump into the fray as their collaboration offerings mature and take root.
  • Existing enterprise software vendors will extend their offerings to include social. Certainly, content management vendors like EMC Documentum and Open Text have joined the trend by extending their core offerings to include social computing and managing the results artifacts in their systems of record. Oracle has shared a vision of their next generation Fusion business applications that will be social enabled through their WebCenter portal offering. SAP has recently announced Streamwork as an initial social offering and has signaled more investments in social technologies and greater integration with their underlying business application and business intelligence offerings.

Social technologies are proving their value in the enterprise. Enterprises are maturing their implementations. Vendors are making major investments. 2010 will be a defining year in both the maturation of social technologies and the Information Workplace.