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When social tools go viral

Brad Howarth | April 4, 2013
It says something when powerful and popular social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter become the template for an entirely new form of workplace collaboration.

It says something when powerful and popular social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter become the template for an entirely new form of workplace collaboration.

While many CIOs struggle with the question of whether or not to allow these tools into the workplace, workers have flocked to them in droves, to the point where Facebook now has more than 10 million Australian users.

Whether companies allow use of these tools or not, the reality is that workers know how to use them. And it is for this reason that a new generation of workplace collaboration tools are being so readily adopted.

Enterprise social tools feature the rolling update style of Facebook along with features such as document sharing that are found in more traditional collaboration tools, backed by enterprise-grade security and management.

The market is led by Yammer, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2012. The company reported 80 per cent growth in Australia in 2012, with more than 400,000 local users. Other examples include the National Field, Mindjet, Salesforce.com's Chatter and Citrix's Podio.

What makes these tools different to more traditional collaboration tools such as Cisco's WebEx or Citrix' GoToMeeting is that they are designed to be used on an ongoing basis, rather than for discreet interactions, and have interfaces and functionality that is similar to consumer tools.

According to the research company IDC, these enterprise social tools now make up 11 per cent of the collaboration software market, up from 3 per cent in 2008. Overall, collaboration software sales grew by 15 per cent last year.

What is intriguing about the growth of these tools is the viral nature in which they infiltrate organisations. For example, at the shopping centre operator Westfield the use of Yammer grew from nothing to more than 1000 users in a year, with no formal encouragement from senior management.

A similar uptake pattern has been witnessed at National Australia Bank, which has been using Yammer for four years.

The CEO of NAB's Health Industry Claims and Payments Service (HICAPS), Simon Terry, first became aware of Yammer while in the role of dean of customer experience at The Academy, which is NAB's internal business school.

Terry remains a 'champion' for Yammer within the bank, and has watched it spread virally from humble beginnings with the banks' technology innovation team.

"Our innovation team in technology identified Yammer when it was highlighted in the Tech Crunch 50, around the time of its launch," Terry says. "They began to experiment with it in an early version and were trialling what could be done. Over time, they introduced early business users, around the business innovation opportunities in NAB, and it grew from there."

 

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