At a time when businesses and employees are under increasing pressure to do more with less, it seems that everyone is looking for a smarter way to work better together. Social enterprise collaboration tools look to provide a way to improve information flow and are fast becoming the tech industry’s go-to solution for tackling productivity issues. But is it the silver bullet we have all been waiting for? 

No doubt that 2012 was a huge year for social enterprise collaboration technology. Big players unveiled updated versions of their own tools. Microsoft made big waves with the purchase of private social networking company, Yammer VMWare’s Socialcast to Salesforce’s Chatter added to the hype as industry and businesses began looking at these solutions in a different light. So does the reality live up to the hype?

While these solutions offer productivity benefits they can and should offer so much more. What these solutions are lacking at present is an ability to address much wider and more serious business issues surrounding communication and collaboration.

Although they can provide a good platform for teams and individuals to communicate in real-time and share information, they should also support business strategy and project management. Presently these solutions are too linear and small-scale, to meet the bigger picture requirements and issues of modern working environments.

McKinsey’s social economy report, which examined these solutions, concluded that almost 80% of organisations that use social technologies are still ‘developing’. It also sheds light on the low levels of benefit companies are currently seeing from their use of social technologies for interacting with employees, customer and business partners.

This is a clear message that social enterprise collaboration tools need to be more than platforms which deliver file-sharing or instant messenger capabilities. In order to succeed they must aim to become an integral part of office working life, driving innovation and initiatives forward and be able to show quantifiable benefits.

Most importantly, they must clearly show how they can help businesses tap into the 20-25 per cent increased productivity and $1.3 billion savings that the McKinsey report highlighted this technology could unlock. More mature vendors such as IBM have acknowledged this need and gone on to develop services-led engagement models that help customers analyse requirements, create sensible expectations, and deliver against them.

There is room for improvement to build upon and expand the offerings of tools in this space further in the future. To gain widespread adoption and (importantly) use a good social enterprise collaboration solution should be something that no business can ignore. It must be as simple and ubiquitous as email and will only stand the test of time if it is simple enough to be ingrained within the workflow of a workforce and offer instant gratification.