This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY
A few years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for business executives to view social networking with a mixture of derision and confusion. When leaders weren’t trying to wish away Facebook and Twitter (News - Alert) as trifles and time wasters, they were lamenting the fact that their company now had to add social media to its sales, marketing, and communications strategies.
It’s funny how quickly the landscape evolves. As with so many technologies these days, consumers led the way and then companies played catch up. The mass adoption of social networking altered the way that individuals were used to communicating, and these habits bled into the corporate world. The challenge was to figure out how to provide employees with secure channels to exchange information and collaborate; the answer was enterprise social networks – the use of internal online networks to enable people to form groups and engage on shared business interests.
Businesses increasingly recognize that collaboration via the exchange of information and ideas are key drivers of productivity and growth. The combination of unified communications and enterprise social networking is where things start to get very interesting. Microsoft’s (News - Alert) recent purchase of Yammer, an enterprise social networking platform, is an indicator of the vast potential market for tools that enable people to connect and collaborate. Yammer (News - Alert) boasts more than 4 million users at approximately 200,000 companies around the world and has been steadily adding new features to address business needs.
In a way, enterprise social networking represents the logical extension of unified communications. While UC has proved essential at connecting employees across an organization through tools such as screen sharing and rich presence, they still needed tools to support engagement among groups. Yammer provides this functionality, from the ability to collaborate on documents in real time and store files to online groups that support conversations and information sharing.
Microsoft Lync and Yammer are complementary products that have the potential to change the way that companies operate – particularly businesses that rely on knowledge workers. Both platforms are device agnostic, and their focus on mobility means that employees can connect with one another from anywhere on any device. Industries from health care and manufacturing to professional services – basically, any business that relies on the timely exchange of information to support operations – will stand to benefit tremendously.
In the same way that unified communications altered how companies approach voice, enterprise social networking – now with the advantage of Microsoft’s market reach – will enable people to connect in new and exciting ways.
Mike Sheridan is executive vice president of worldwide sales with Aspect (News - Alert) (www.aspect.com).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi