"Collaboration tool" has become a catch-all term that a wide range of vendors use. Some providers deliver a host of features, including file sharing, task management, social networking and instant messaging, all in one offering. Others wrap collaboration tools into traditional enterprise products such as CRM and ERP software. And yet others focus on one core function, such as file sharing, and offer additional lightweight features that could help with collaboration.
The adoption of such tools in the enterprise has grown steadily. Jane McConnell, adviser and researcher at Digital Workplace Trends, found that in 2009, fewer than 10% of organizations she surveyed had deployed enterprise social networking software, either in parts of their organization or across the business. In 2013, deployments had jumped to 40% of organizations. Her annual report, The Digital Workplace in the Connected Organization (PDF), surveys 314 companies around the world.
McConnell puts survey respondents into two groups -- early adopter firms, which typically make up 20% of the respondents, and everyone else, which she calls the majority. In her most recent survey, from third-quarter 2013, she found that 57% of the early adopters had deployed a production enterprise social networking product company-wide. That's compared to just 25% of the majority.
But a fair number of those majority firms are making steps to adopt new social products. Some 29% said they were considering or planning a deployment and 18% were piloting products.
Other collaboration tools being used across the board, the survey says, include Web-based video meetings, conference calls and webinars with customers.
Both early adopters and the majority use "unofficial, ad hoc collaborative workspaces" in the public cloud. This is part of a greater trend "that people are increasingly taking their tools into their own hands and using what suits them best regardless of corporate policies," according to the survey.
-- Nancy Gohring