Enterprise collaboration becoming more social

As interpersonal business communications feature more social media attributes, businesses must ensure consistent access and staff familiarization with such tools, notes industry analyst.

Business communications today are seeing greater convergence between social networking services and e-mail, creating new collaboration styles in the workplace, according to a Gartner analyst.

In a statement released Thursday, Monica Basso, Gartner's research vice president noted that e-mail and social networks were no longer mutually exclusive. This overlap is reshaping interpersonal business communications and establishing new collaboration styles in the workplace, said Basso, who was speaking at the research firm's Synposium/ITxpo 2010 conference.

In fact, by 2014, Gartner believes 20 percent of employees will use social networks, replacing e-mail, as their primary business communications tool.

The market research firm attributed it to the greater availability of social networking services and changing work styles, such as more companies permitting the business use of social network accounts or building their own internal social networks. Social networking would also be more effective than e-mail for certain business activities such as status updates, Gartner added.

Basso explained: "In the past, organizations supported collaboration through e-mail and highly structured applications only. Today, social paradigms are converging with e-mail, instant messaging and presence.

"The rigid distinction between e-mail and social networks will erode. E-mail will take on many social attributes such as contact brokering, while social networks will develop richer e-mail capabilities."

She noted that for new collaboration styles to be effective and efficient, organizations must not only ensure the capabilities of the various collaboration tools are available for employees, staff members also need to become familiar and comfortable using these services.

Collaboration moving to cloud
At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, the research firm also examined the trend of collaboration moving to the cloud, where it noted that sales of both premise- and cloud-based social networking services would experience strong growth. It added that organizations would use a hybrid model where certain services would remain on-premise while others would reside on the cloud.

Gartner predicted that cloud-based e-mail accounts would grow to 10 percent by the end of 2012, up from 7 percent in 2009.