Enterprises Slowly Adopting Social Tech

Attendees to next week's Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston may find that businesses' use of social-networking and collaboration technologies is slowly starting to take off.

The conference will feature four days of presentations by vendors, consultants and end-users on an array of collaborative tools and practices that are intended to help companies reach customers and mine the "collective intelligence" within their organizations.

"While it's true that we have many, many more organizations large and small experimenting with and committing to 2.0 strategies internally and externally ... the truth of the matter is: we are still early adopters of this new way of working," said Susan Scrupski, founder of the 2.0 Adoption Council and a conference board member, in a blog post this week.

"The good news is: We are all really early on a phenomenon that is changing the world as we know it," she added. "This social transformation will be larger and more comprehensive than any technology transformation (including the Internet and mobile) we've seen thus far. Those of us who are in this for the long haul know this instinctively."

This year's event does appear to feature more customer stories than past ones, with speakers from telecom BT Group, Pennsylvania State University, Sony and the Washington Post among those set to appear.

Enterprise 2.0 seems to finally be gaining real interest among end-users, as well as vendors and consultants, according to another observer.

"I used to be somewhat down on the category, but now I'm a tad more rosy," said Redmonk analyst Michael Coté. "I think this year is the first one in a long time where I feel like more mainstream customers would actually be interested in trying and buying Enterprise 2.0 offerings -- in the past, mainstream folks have been a bit wait-and-see and 'I got no budget.'"

The fact that many Enterprise 2.0-related products are delivered as SaaS (software as a service) helps companies try them out more easily, Coté noted. The "weed-like spread" of Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration platform has provided a dose of validation for the market in general, and products themselves have matured as well, he said.

"In the early days there was a lot of quick work around putting an enterprise-y feel around wikis and blogs, but what I tend to see now are more focused platforms and applications," Cote said.

To that end, a plethora of product announcements is expected at the show. Among the highlights:

-- Web conferencing vendor Dimdim will showcase new integration with other cloud-based software, including Google Apps and Zimbra. The company is offering attendees lifetime Dimdim accounts at no charge.

-- An expected announcement from Mainsoft also focuses on tying together various productivity applications. The vendor's Harmon.ie tool allows users to tap SharePoint and Google Docs from within Outlook.

-- Infosys will demonstrate its iEngage platform, a SaaS offering for consumer marketing and e-commerce.

-- Social27 is expected to discuss its SaaS product for running virtual events.

-- Larger vendors such as IBM and Cisco are also planning to showcase products.

Enterprise 2.0 begins Monday and runs through Thursday in Boston.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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