Microsoft released a survey earlier this week (conducted by research firm Ipsos) indicating that employees want more social tools in their respective workplaces.
The survey involved 9,908 “information workers” in 32 countries, and found that 39 percent of them felt there wasn’t enough collaboration in workplaces; nearly that same number (40 percent) believed that social tools would help solve that lack of collaboration. Around 31 percent believed in collaboration so strongly, they indicated a willingness to spend their own money on social software.
“Employees are already bringing their own devices into their workplaces, but now they are increasingly bringing their own services as well,” Charlene Li, founder and analyst at Altimeter Group, wrote in a statement quoted as part of the survey results. “Employees expect to work differently, with tools that feel more modern and connected, but are also reflective of how they interact in their personal lives.”
Of course, Microsoft has a vested interest in social software: last summer, it spent $1.2 billion to acquire enterprise social-networking firm Yammer. Under the terms of that agreement, Yammer continues to operate as a standalone service, with Microsoft looking for ways to integrate its various tools into other platforms such as Office.
Microsoft faces a fair amount of competition in the business-social space, mostly from larger IT firms that are aggressively buying and integrating smaller startups in a bid to give their respective software portfolios a bit more social interaction. For example, Salesforce recently launched its Salesforce Social.com, which incorporates assets from Buddy Media, the social-marketing firm it purchased in 2012 for $689 million; Social.com allows companies to tailor how they deliver ads to social networks, helped along by dashboards and tools for building and launching campaigns across a variety of devices.
Oracle, SAP, and other enterprise-IT firms have also focused in recent quarters on producing software that renders work environments more collaborative and social; and that’s in addition to the innumerable firms that simply use Facebook or Twitter to conduct internal and external business.
All these firms clearly see social as playing a significant role in the future of their respective portfolios. However, a number of potential clients have issues with using social tools as the “glue” binding their employees’ workflows; for example, for those in the financial and government sectors, social software comes with significant security concerns. Even those employers in less-sensitive industries are concerned that too many social tools will contribute to a loss in productivity. Microsoft can commission all the surveys it wants, but spreading the gospel of social to businesses will probably require a much more significant investment in time and marketing power.