The world of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Web 2.0 have been changing rapidly to refit into the 21st century generation. Companies today are starting to collaborate using Enterprise 2.0 platforms and technologies, but this shift is gradual but steady, considering that most companies were still basing their collaborations via emails, phone calls, offline content management applications and Instant Messaging (IM) in some cases.

With the advent of platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Yammer etc., it is clear that the landscape of Enterprise 2.0 is vastly changing. We have our very own platform in Singapore: Socialwok, who are trying to bring the ease of Facebook and Twitter to the Enterprise sector. I recently chatted with the CEO, Ming Yong, and got some feel on the industry as well as how SocialWok got started and here are some excerpts :
How did Socialwok get started?
Socialwok started out by selling open source based software for building IP Unified Communications phone systems to small and medium businesses. In the process of interacting with the enterprises, they observed that enterprises were having issues being effective in collaboration within and outside their organizations, while managing their organizational information and knowledge. Upon deeper inspection, they realized that enterprises were also trying to make sense of the implications of social networks on their business processes; ranging from online marketing, collaboration, to customer support. Hence, they have re-examined their position as an organization and built the Socialwok service to address these pain points.

Social media’s impact on the enterprise industry
While we talked about the rise of Enterprise 2.0 and the rise of social media, internally we were somewhat skeptical about social media’s use in corporate companies. That was until we read about and how they used Twitter for their business. Zappos, a company that’s clearly one step ahead in the social media bandwagon, is an avid user of Twitter . Zappos got onto the Twitter platform and it helped fuel it’s growth tremendously as well as improve customer engagement. While’s adoption of Twitter is a fine example of how companies can embrace social media, the main challenges of getting Web 2.0 into the enterprise still remains

Change Makers
Interestingly though, it is not the I.T. people who wanted the adoption of enterprise web 2.0 and social media, but the Marketing, Corporate Communications and Research & Development departments that wanted the Web 2.0-like tools . Ming from Socialwok also agrees – “If there were no adoption to Enterprise Web, we will still be CC-ing and BCC-ing emails with attachments back and forth to countless parties, just for a simple group collaboration. The enterprise space has been finding online presence given the popularity of Facebook and Twitter.”

However, the factors affecting adoption of Enterprise Web 2.0 varies. The specific platform is determined by a lot of influences like the corporate culture which determines the working style, communication strategies, and embracing of new systems. Such collaborative tools are useful only if the corporate companies have a flexible approach towards adopting new systems. If the CEO of the company happens to be less-technology savvy, he will happen to look at social media as a source for potential harm. When asked about this Ming, from Socialwok remarked “The importance of social media is growing gradually or fast, I might say, as more people all over the world are joining Facebook and Twitter. Enterprises and organizations will have to deal with the reality that their next customer and next employee is comfortable with social media. Hence, enterprises and organizations HAVE to adopt social media into their business affair like internal collaboration or marketing. There are significant opportunities and savings to social media, in term of online marketing, Socialwok has helped their own organization cut online marketing cost tremendously. Instead of being reliant on traditional online marketing, where PPC (Pay Per Click) search ads and ROI (Return of Investment) is lacking due to lots of click frauds and click exits. Using social networks, tweets, blogs and other social media methods to organically grow their search rankings is more productive. The benefits of social media to businesses is very concrete and should be utilized.”

The other challenges facing Enterprise Web 2.0 is the potential shift from the legacy systems to  ‘mashups’. Steve Hodgkinson, Ovum’s IT research director in Australia/NZ commented on the some of the challenges faced which includes network penetration, accidental disclosure of security and privacy, increased number of systems and integration pain, archive problems and versioning information, increased risk of identity theft as well as the concern of having employees engaged in non-work related social networking (eg. playing facebook application-based games). However, considering all this challenges Socialwok believe in their system, in it’s ability to boost a company’s productivity by doing the following through their system:

a) For group discussions & social file sharing within a medium size engineering company for example like Acme Pte Ltd which has 5 departments such as HR, Accounting, Marketing, Engineering and Finance. The company can use Socialwok as a private social network, and within it, there are Socialwok feed pages for each department with followers of each feed. They can share ideas, web links, videos, office documents and spun discussion threads within each feed page. The company can also use feed pages for specific projects.

b) For group collaboration outside the organization, Acme Pte Ltd can also create another set of feed pages to manage all its external communications and interactions with the company’s top 5 suppliers and contractors. Administrators for each feed page can invite external members of Socialwok (eg. suppliers and contractors) to follow these pages. When they are comments or new updates to the feed, the other party can choose to opt for a notification on his Blackberry or iPhone.

c) For customer support, Acme Pte Ltd can create a customer feed page where employees who are all members of the company’s private network can publish updates to answer support issues of customers and also for making announcements. Customers can be invited to this customer private feed where they can post comments and new updates to report any issues to Acme Pte Ltd.

d) For social media marketing, Acme Pte Ltd can have Facebook and Twitter pages as well as a publicly accessible enterprise blog site that contains blogs of all employees. Each employee can write small updates with file attachments for images, videos and documents. Socialwok will automatically create blogs based on these updates. These employee blogs can be on any work related topics. Hence, anyone in the world can read about Acme’s latest techniques or improvement in the industry.

Facts aside, Socialwok have shared with us on their three strategies for getting adoption of Socialwok enterprise social collaboration in Asia. These includes leveraging Socialwok to manage their own online social media marketing campaigns to get the word out to Asia; deploying the brand with key brand name customers, who will provide them with good deployment case studies in various industry straight up; as well as planning to conduct a series of workshop educating businesses on the impact and benefits of enterprise social apps in collaboration with key partners.

Heads up to other startups, what will your strategy be? Share with us!