Enterprise apps get social

Combining social media with ERP and other business software is a great mix

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The company is already seeing benefits such as enhanced inventory accuracy, a 90% reduction in lead times in some cases, zero invoice errors, cost savings on logistics due to 100% accuracy of product deliveries, reduced inventory costs and improved accuracy in areas such as product pricing and delivery times. "Inventory-carrying cost is the least it's been in years," Ray says.

Key challenges

For organizations just getting into social media, one important decision will be determining whether to use multiple social platforms with enterprise applications or to standardize on a single social platform, Forrester's Koplowitz says.

"This is where it gets complicated," he says. A specific social-media platform is paired with the enterprise application it's sold with. "Do I want four or five of these? Do I want all these stovepipes, or do I buy [Salesforce.com's] Chatter and everything has to snap to that? [This year] will be an interesting year to see which leaders emerge in this space."

Of course, enterprises can opt to mix-and-match various social platforms and corporate applications, but there are no guarantees of integration. Customers would have to roll their own.

Another challenge is getting consistency in messaging across channels. Many companies have multiple social media platforms to reach different types of customers, IDC's Wardley says. "In marketing, it is not uncommon to have multiple fan pages or brand-related pages in Facebook. In addition, multiple brands can be using a variety of handles in the various social networks."

The addition of social also opens questions about privacy, governance, risk and compliance. "For industries in which these are particularly an issue, such as any highly regulated industry -- government, financial services -- there need to be safeguards and clear rules of engagement," Wardley says.

Research from IDC shows that enterprise social software adoption has "accelerated significantly," finding use cases across almost all industries as it continues to become a critical decision-support and worker productivity tool. Companies are turning to social software in growing numbers as they look for ways to increase collaboration and worker productivity and efficiently manage growing volumes of information, IDC says.

Gartner agrees. In a report released in January 2013, Gartner predicted that by 2016, 50% of large organizations will have internal Facebook-like social networks, and 30% of these will be considered as essential as email and telephones are today.

Several trends across vertical sectors have emerged, reports London-based research firm Ovum. The retail, hospitality, transportation and technology industries have become early adopters of using social media as a customer service channel and are using it pervasively.

Not all companies are adopting social as quickly, however.

According to an October 2012 Ovum report, a number of CEOs and senior executives "fail to see how social media adds value to their overall strategy, and are reluctant to invest internally or externally in the concept."

But that's a mistake, the consultancy maintains. If enterprise leaders don't become more receptive to leveraging social media, "they are going to fall behind and pay the price," the Ovum report says. Business and IT executives must develop a strategy in this area or risk missing opportunities to reach customers and access strategic information.

Social media links with enterprise apps has given companies such as Nebraska Book "the ability to put valuable information into the hands of our sales force more quickly," and "in a social media format they use every day," Kelly says. "This gives them more time to sell our services rather than spend their time gathering information."

Bob Violino is a freelance writer in Massapequa Park, N.Y. You can reach him at bviolino@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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