Small Business IT Turning to Social for Renovation over Innovation

Brad Shimmin
Brad Shimmin

Summary Bullets:
• Like their big business brethren, small businesses are flocking to enterprise social networking solutions as a means of cutting travel costs and improving productivity.
• As our research has revealed, when the rubber hits the road, however, IT buyers prioritize the improvement of existing collaboration tools such as e-mail over pie-in-the-sky ideals such as business transformation.
As an industry analyst, I find it very tempting to look for that next big thing, the innovation just over the horizon, which promises to sweep away our obviously outmoded notions of what it means to build a productive, innovative business. We analysts are not mistaken in looking to the future and imagining “what if.” But as our recent survey of 600 SMB IT buyers has revealed, the future can actually improve the past. What if ideas like social analytics, event streams and rich profiles had been around when e-mail first found its footing in the mid-1980s? What if early messaging products like cc:Mail had the ability to recommend people and documents contextually, based upon the message being viewed?

This strange form of time travel is taking place right now, particularly within the SMB market, where IT buyers are looking to improve their existing communication and collaboration solutions — e-mail in particular. This of course runs counter to a numerous recent prognostications concerning the imminent demise of e-mail at the hands of more modern forms of communication currently en vogue among Generation Yers. To the contrary, in our survey, when we asked IT buyers why they chose to buy an enterprise social network, we found the following:

• 62.6% sought to improve existing collaboration tools

• 22.8% looked to cut down on e-mail traffic

These were the highest and lowest rankings out of ten possible decision-makers. And I think they point to a very rational understanding of e-mail, not as a legacy system due to be replaced, but as an essential piece of collaborative infrastructure that can be modernized and made more valuable through the infusion of enterprise social networking technologies and practices.

If you’d like to hear more on this topic, you’re welcome to tune in either tomorrow (October 24th) or Thursday (October 25th) for a free webcast, which I’ll be presenting, entitled “Enterprise Social Networking for Competitive Advantage.” I’ll expand a bit on how SMB IT buyers look at this notion of improving e-mail relative to larger corporations, and I’ll show you how they rolled out their solutions, the challenges they faced and the means they used to ensure success. And I’ll present a vendor report card for the top vendors and products in use among our survey respondents. Registered attendees will also gain access to the complete research findings for this report card, which covers nearly 20 vendors and more than 30 products. I hope to see you there.

What do you think?

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