APAC apt for social collaboration, but adoption slow

Region currently slower than West in adopting social collaboration tools, but demand and deployment expected to grow in next few years, industry voices say.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor on

Asia-Pacific organizations in general are slightly behind their Western counterparts in deploying enterprise social collaboration software, but their appetite and adoption of such tools area set to increase over the next few years, industry voices observe.

Asian countries currently lag in the adoption of enterprise social collaboration tools due to concerns that such software could be counter-productive, said Shivanu Shukla, associate director of ICT at Frost & Sullivan.

Asian CIOs are unsure if an enterprise version of social networking tools will have a negative impact on staff productivity, the analyst said in an e-mail interview. They may be aware that their employees use various social networking tools in their personal lives, but prefer to first look at ways and proof that they can leverage these for work purposes, Shukla noted.

This also means that the lack of successful deployments and case studies on the benefits and tangible returns on investments (ROI) only further stalls adoption among businesses, he said.

But while the region's enterprise social collaboration market is still in its infancy, with increasing awareness and success of some early adopters, it is expected to "pick up significantly" over the next three to five years, he said.

In 2010, this market was worth US$28.6 million in the Asia-Pacific, but by 2013, it will balloon to US$56 million at annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25 percent, the analyst said. He identified Australia, Japan, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia as some of the standout markets with strong growth potential.

APAC drivers for social collaboration
Enterprise appetite and adoption of social collaboration software in Asia will only increase because the region holds a number of main growth factors, Shukla pointed out.

First, there is growing maturity of collaboration tools and awareness among Asian businesses today, he explained.

The increasing penetration of consumer social networking tools and higher proportion of young workers from Generation Y--compared to other regions worldwide--are fuelling expectations that the same tools should be accessible in the workplace, he added.

Companies will need to implement enterprise-grade social networking and collaboration tools if they want to attract and retain this youthful workforce demographic, he pointed out.

Also, Asian enterprises can be geographically spread across offices in different countries within, and outside, the region, so tools are needed to enable project teams to share and collaborate quickly, he added.

Gavin Tay, research director at Gartner, concurred that Asian organizations in particular appreciate how social collaboration software improves connectedness and collaboration among their staff, helping to capture informal knowledge especially in a highly volatile workforce.

Tay explained in an e-mail: "Asian firms [are drawn to] leveraging social software because it leaves rooms for individuals to interact formerly, brainstorm, explore ideas and encourage or challenge peers.

"This is the innovation platform referred to by many Asian companies, by the fact that many such companies are replacing their aging workforce."

Steve McWhirter, Asia-Pacific senior vice president at Salesforce.com, added that Asia is "an area to watch" for the adoption of enterprise social collaboration software. The software vendor offers Chatter, a cloud-based, enterprise social collaboration platform, which was launched in June last year.

Noting that businesses in Asia have shown a "significant appetite for and understanding" of enterprise social collaboration software, McWhirter told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail: "There's no reason why Asia-Pacific can't lead the world in social collaboration adoption."

Social collaboration serves needs, brings benefits
According to McWhirter, there are tangible returns for companies that embrace "a more collaborative model". He referred to a McKinsey & Company report released December 2010, which found that 77 percent of 3,249 respondents reported increased access to knowledge, while 55 percent experienced better information sharing through the use of Web 2.0 tools.

"The bottom line is, networked enterprises deliver greater productivity, greater revenue, and greater market share," McWhirter said.

Gartner's Tay highlighted that today's enterprise world is "dramatically" different than it was two decades ago. And if a company's present business strategies are based on outmoded work models, it can cripple an organization's effectiveness, he added.

Asian businesses want to connect, create, share and find people and information relevant to their work, he noted, adding that they are also looking to reap the "power and potential of social software" because it creates business value.

These organizations use social software as an integral part of motivating and leveraging collective action between, and among, internal and external social networks. Besides driving changes in interpersonal interactions and innovation, operational efficiency and effectiveness are also improved and organizational performance raised, Tay concluded.

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