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MIT Technology Review

Social Networks a Coming Trend at Work

Companies are spending more on social and collaboration software, as new tools compete for workers’ attention.

March 31, 2011

Industry research shows that the market for collaboration software used by corporations—commonly called Enterprise 2.0 technology—is growing, despite the sluggish economy. Gartner, an information technology industry analyst group, began tracking revenue growth of social business software in 2009. Gartner predicts the market for enterprise social software technologies will continue to grow from $664 million in 2010 to $1.3 billion in 2014.

As the popularity of social collaboration software grows, companies are sorting out which tools are most useful. A 2010 Gartner survey of 416 U.S.-based IT professionals shows that e-mail remains the favored  communication tool in the office. However, these same IT professionals are betting that collaboration tools will burrow a niche in daily business operations. 

Forrester Research, in a survey of 934 North American and European collaboration and software decision makers, found that many professionals planned to buy “team workplaces,” or tools that share data, documents, and calendars among workers online, while allowing users to track changes to shared content.

Professionals also planned to implement more Web 2.0 tools—wikis and microblogs, for example—in business. However, IT professionals were less likely to want “unified communications,” which allow employees to check each other’s availability, in real time, on shared calendars, and then choose between voice, video, e-mail, or instant messaging to initiate conversations.

Gartner’s revenue analysis shows that North American businesses are more likely to adopt social business software than businesses in other regions. In 2009, North America accounted for 60 to 65 percent of enterprise social business software revenues. Europe and Asia made up 25 percent and 10 percent of revenues, respectively.