The Social Layer: How to Navigate Social Software Options

Author: Jim Lundy                                                           Date: October 2, 2013
Topic: Social Software                                             Research Note Number: 2013-36

Issue: What are the trends in social software?
Issue: What trends impact collaboration in the enterprise?

Summary: While most major enterprise software providers are offering a full or limited set of social capabilities with their applications, new social layer providers are emerging to challenge the status quo. Enterprises now have more choices than in the past.

Almost all major enterprise software providers are adding social software capabilities. This will not only create confusion but can also lead to social overload due to overlapping investments. Pending integration of activity feeds will allow for one activity stream that can be customized for users or specific groups of users. This research note looks at how rapidly social capabilities are being added to multiple applications (the social layer), how to cope with “social hype,” and how the enterprise software space will evolve.

Due to the success of social software and the hype surrounding it, social-software specialists are proliferating, but they are not alone in offering the technology. Business application vendors in many software domains including CRM, ERP, portals, HCM (talent) and learning have added social capabilities (see Note 1 and Figure 1). Enterprise collaboration platform vendors like IBM and Microsoft have full social software suites. An emerging group of startups is also focused on “gamification” and other types of social-layer enablement (see Note 2). On the user side, many enterprises are also investing in standalone social software for external communities that engage or support partners and customers.

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