Small, large companies have varying social tool perspectives

    Small businesses and enterprises don't see eye to eye with social software deployments.

    The business communications landscape is undergoing significant transformations as organizations replace old phone systems with more innovative social solutions. The latter category is often defined as tools that support collaboration between internal and external parties through sophisticated technologies, such as video conferencing, social networks and other emerging services. As these applications continue to emerge in the corporate environment, decision-makers need to develop a plan of attack and understand how they can navigate the communication market without encountering unnecessary complications.

    While it is common knowledge that no two companies are the same, research has revealed that small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) often have entirely different social adoption strategies than their larger enterprise counterparts. Although this difference is typical in numerous industries, different sized organizations have generally adopted similar - if not the same - office phone systems to stay competitive. As a result, this dissimilarity is introducing new opportunities for firms to differentiate themselves from rivals.

    The contrasting social adoption projects was highlighted in a recent Ipsos study of nearly 10,000 end users within SMBs and enterprises around the world, which found that smaller companies have the tendency to deploy several disparate social technologies for corporate tasks. Large organizations, on the other hand, generally implement fewer technologies to create a more consistent environment.

    "The consumerization of IT has changed the fundamental way in which businesses communicate, with enterprise social tools now following a 'bring-your-own-device' model into the workplace. However, there are distinct differences between how SMBs and large companies adopt these tools, and technology decision-makers still require a certain amount of education around the benefits social tools can provide," said Rebecca Sizelove, associate vice president of public affairs at Ipsos.

    While business phone systems are still a major factor in the way employees communicate with colleagues, customers and partners, it will become increasingly important that decision-makers adapt to ongoing collaboration changes in the corporate setting. This transformation will be critical to meet the needs of both employees and external parties.

    The difference between big and small firms

    Communication is still among the most critical needs within the business world, which is why both SMBs and large companies use social tools primarily for collaborating with colleagues, Ipsos noted. At the same time, however, smaller organizations also use social tools for interacting with customers, vendors and competitors, allowing them to take advantage of a more holistic experience. Conversely, respondents within enterprises often use social resources to locate an internal expert on information.

    Meanwhile, the survey found that employees in big businesses are more hesitant to leverage social solutions, as 27 percent percent believe the technologies' use will impact their company's image, compared to only 21 percent of SMBs. Approximately 25 percent of enterprise employees are also more worried about exposing sensitive information through social platforms, as opposed to only 22 percent of individuals working in SMBs.

    Social collaboration is the future

    Despite some of the trepidation from larger companies, the rapidly expanding social collaboration markets will become increasingly important technological pursuits for firms looking to support a remote workforce and other innovative strategies.

    "Social collaboration technologies represent a growing opportunity for partners with strong demand from end users at both large companies and SMBs. However, each segment uses these technologies in different ways, with SMBs seeing [the benefits of] public [file transfer protocol]/cloud storage, external social networks, blogging platforms while large companies clearly prefer intranets, team sites and videoconferencing," said Jon Roskill of Microsoft.

    A separate IDC report stated that the ongoing use of social business tools should encourage decision-makers in both large and small companies to consider moving these initiatives beyond the corporate firewall. Analysts revealed that approximately 67 percent of firms had deployed corporate-sponsored social software in the workplace in 2012.

    Similar to how various platforms have different phone system features, however, the social landscape is diverse in the sense that there are numerous solutions to choose from, each of which has their own benefits and setbacks. IDC found that price, minimal performance downtime and latency were the most important characteristics to look for when considering a social technology.

    While business VoIP systems are still prevalent in the workplace, the rapidly evolving consumer and corporate environments are encouraging executives to implement numerous collaborative strategies to keep internal and external individuals engaged and connected. Video conferencing, social networks and other tools are well positioned to gain momentum in the coming years as employees demand the ability to use next-generation tools and consumers require anytime access to corporate representatives.

    By planning ahead and working with experienced service providers, SMB and enterprise executives can build holistic communication experiences by leveraging both sophisticated voice services and other social tools simultaneously. In doing so, organizations will be able to differentiate themselves from rivals and establish more effective long-term communication programs.