Dreamforce: Are Cloud Providers Feeling The Social Enterprise Revolution?

Dreamforce 2011 focused mainly on Salesforce.com's vision for the social enterprise, a confluence of social, mobile and open cloud technologies and practices to boost collaboration and communication.

And a pair of Salesforce's largest partners, Appirio and Bluewolf, set out to determine whether this "social revolution," as Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff called it, is actually happening.

Bluewolf Managing Director Len Couture said the social enterprise is starting to bubble up in customer conversations and enterprises' migration from data, to information, to intelligence as more mobile and social tools get put to use, whether via Salesforce Chatter or other tools.

The ultimate goal is to create and "agile enterprise" where "social is just a component," said Corinne Sklar, Bluewolf vice president of marketing.

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But according to recent findings from Bluewolf, many businesses recognize the need to be social, but there are still concerns to be hashed out before they make the social leap.

According to a Bluewolf survey, 61 percent of respondents said social media is a high priority for their company, while 36 percent are taking a wait and see approach and 3 percent have no social plans. Meanwhile, 60 percent of companies polled said every business needs to be a social enterprise; 34 percent said many businesses should be social, but not all; but 6 percent said it's not essential for any business to be a social enterprise.

As for use cases, 56 percent of businesses polled said they allow employees access to external social networks during work hours; 48 percent track company-related link sharing and mentions on the Web and social networks; 40 percent support social media internally; and 7 percent do none of those things.

Bluewolf's research also found that companies are exploring becoming more social. Sixty-five percent are eying social tools to communicate with partners and stakeholders, 48 percent want to track company-related discussions on the Web and social networks and 42 percent want to offer a private internal social network for employees.

Despite the push for social networks and media with enterprises, Bluewolf found that there are great concerns to be alleviated before an enterprise goes social. Bluewolf found that management and ownership of social media is a major concern for 58 percent of respondents. Other concerns include employing proper metrics and proving value, 54 percent, and loss of productivity, 27 percent.

Still, the majority of companies, 52 percent, are extremely confident in investing in social media and experiencing positive results; while 35 percent are somewhat confident and 9 percent are not confident.

Couture said companies that are eyeing social enterprise solutions and practices are looking to transform their businesses, but have to realize that change is constant.

"This is about transformation," he said. "This is a continual path for change."

Next: Appirio Looks At Attitudes Towards The Social Enterprise

Along with Bluewolf's survey around social enterprises, Salesforce partner and cloud provider Appirio polled Dreamforce 2011 attendees about their social enterprise plans to get a pulse on the traction social enterprise is gaining.

Appirio found that 42 percent of respondents defined the social enterprise as engaging and marketing to customers on public networks, while only 19 percent said they felt it was making internal processes social.

Additionally, 38 percent of Appirio respondents said Salesforce Chatter is the social app they use most often at work to stay connected with colleagues and customers, while Facebook and LinkedIn ranked second and third, respectively.

For integration, Appirio survey takers said they'd most liked to see Chatter integrated with other social apps like LinkedIn and Facebook, 67 percent, or e-mail, 24 percent.

And lastly, 50 percent of respondents ranked their companies' social enterprise strategy somewhere in the middle of anti-social or very social. No respondents claimed to be very social, Appirio found.

"The results from our Dreamforce 2011 attendee survey parallel what we're hearing from many customers and prospects. Most people understand the benefits of the social enterprise, but very few claim to be social experts,’ said Balakrishna Narasimhan, senior director, corporate strategy, adding that this increases the need for a strong partner to tackle the social enterprise, as companies ’need a trusted adviser in this area and a plan to make sure they get they get real results from their social investments."