Even in the face of a down economy, social software is hot, at least according to Gartner.
I spent the better part of this week working the floor at the Gartner ITXpo / Symposium in Orlando, where many enterprise decision-makers were seeking solutions to help them cut costs and streamline their IT projects. Some of the most often-heard suggested ideas to support financial belt tightening were cloud computing options rather than expensive IT investments, and even the consolidation of point security solutions into one platform. The firm even released its top 10 strategic technology areas for 2009 -- which includes technologies that Gartner believes will have the most significant impact on enterprises over the next three years. Social networking / social software was No. 7 on that list.
According to Gartner:
Social software includes a broad range of technologies, such as social networking, social collaboration, social media and social validation. Organizations should consider adding a social dimension to a conventional Web site or application and should adopt a social platform sooner, rather than later, because the greatest risk lies in failure to engage and thereby, being left mute in a dialogue where your voice must be heard.
What? But Michael Arrington wrote that this downturn is the death of Web 2.0? Granted, when making such a declaration, Arrington was focusing more on the multitude of fly-by-night Web 2.0 startups that help to give Silicon Valley a bad reputation, but many others have seen this economic upheaval as a death knell for enterprise social networking as well.
According to Jeffrey Mann, vice president of research in Gartner's collaboration and social software group, that just isn't the case. Company and brand awareness, as well as customer engagement and management, is needed even more so in a down economy, and can be done without a massive investment.
"Social networking tools -- especially those open source and free consumer services -- can be used to achieve business objectives and even drive down the costs of achieving those objectives,"Mann said. "Social networking and social software is not incompatible with a down economy and saving money, especially since so many companies are deriving real business value."
Mann does agree, however, that there will be an inevitable weeding out of Web 2.0 startups. But there are opportunities for services such as Ping.fm and FriendFeed, as more companies determine how to use these tools to meet corporate objectives.
Will your company use social networks and social software in 2009?