Social Business: If You Build It, Will They Come?

Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that social media,
big data, cloud computing and mobility are colliding in the enterprise,
transforming the way we live and work. Along the way, these factors are raising
a host of challenges for the IT organization, as well as the governance and
compliance departments.

The impact of these trends is being felt on two fronts:
Externally, enterprise customers are making quick use of social media and
mobility to influence brand image and make purchasing decisions. Internally,
workers are using social media and mobility — whether IT likes it or not — and
there’s vast, untapped opportunity to harness these ways of working to foster
collaboration and communication, change business processes and potentially
influence the bottom line.

Software and solutions vendors are aiming to give
enterprises the tools that would enable them to marry social, cloud and
mobility — internally and externally — in a way that accommodates the trends
while keeping the very real needs for data security, compliance and risk
management in mind.

According to Forrester Research, the market opportunity for
social enterprise apps is expected to
grow from $600 million in year-end 2011 to $6.4 billion by year-end 2016, a 61
percent increase. The research firm also predicts that cloud computing will
grow from a $41 billion business in 2011 to $241 billion by 2020. Meanwhile,
the mobile workforce is projected by IDC to reach more than 1.19 billion people
worldwide by 2013.

CIOs have the opportunity to drive the discussions about
external- and internal-facing social business strategies, and a close look
reveals that, in fact, the two are really inextricably entwined.

Externally, businesses need to be able to process and make
sense of the vast volumes of data being generated on social media in order to
make intelligent business decisions.

Inside the enterprise, the consumerization of IT is a
much-discussed topic these days, and the consensus tends to be “give the people
what they want.”

These were the twin focal points at the IBM Lotusphere and
IBM Connect conferences
— held
simultaneously in Orlando, FL, Jan. 15-18. At the same time, it was refreshing
to hear talk about the needs of the enterprise and, particularly, IT, placed
front-and-center in the many discussions taking place around mobility and
social media.

How tomorrow’s “social business” will play out is less a
discussion about specific technologies and solutions, and more about the challenges
of change management. The real question to ask now is: Do “sanctioned” social
media and mobility solutions handed down from within an organizational
hierarchy stand any hope of being embraced productively and enthusiastically by
an enterprise workforce?

It’s early days to try and answer that question, but the use
cases presented at IBM Connect offer a glimpse into what lies ahead.

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