Companies And Social Networks
Within the next three years, the dominant consumer social networks including Facebook and Twitter “will hit the limits of their growth”, predicts Gartner, the IT research firm.

But Gartner also expects the use of social networking technologies by companies to surge. “Social computing is moving from being just on the outside of the organisation to being at the core of business operations,” said Peter Sondergaard, Gartner’s head of research.

“It is changing the fundamentals of management, how you establish a sense of purpose and motivate people to act,” he told an audience of technology leaders attending Gartner’s annual IT Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

Social computing will move organisations from hierarchical structures and defined teams to communities that can cross any organisational boundary and enable much greater co-operation between employees.

Companies are now beginning to establish social media as a discipline, and within three years Gartner predicts that as many as 10 organisations will each spend over $1bn a year on social media.

But along with this boom, Mr Sondergaard warns that “deceptive practices will emerge”. Among these, Gartner is forecasting that paid reviews and ratings will make up 15 per cent of all social media reviews by 2015, and that up to 30 per cent of posts to social media will be automated posts, some generated entirely by machines.

Even within organisations, the switch to “social computing” will have dramatic repercussions. “Social capabilities will become embedded in established business applications, or exposed for developers to pursue,” says Gartner.

As a result, internal software applications will exploit external social environments. “You could ask, ‘Will LinkedIn be more accurate than most of your current HR data?’” he added.

Meanwhile, companies and other organisations will also need to redesign their businesses around mobile devices, processes and applications.

In 2016, more than 1.6bn smart mobile devices will be purchased globally, two-thirds of the workforce will own a smartphone and 40 per cent of the workforce will be mobile.

“You need to design your business around mobile,” Mr Sondergaard told his audience, which included chief information officers and their teams from many large organisations. “Your customers and employees are leading you there.”

Mobile will enable marketing departments to spend more time with customers employees to become more productive, and process flows will be dramatically cut.

“You must plan with mobile-changing application delivery,” he said. “In four years, more than 300bn app downloads will occur each year.”

Gartner predicts that the major vendors of monolithic business suites will struggle to make mobile applications that are usable, affordable and secure, and that tablets will continue to shake up the business world.

“In less than two years, iPads will be more common in business than BlackBerrys,” said Mr Sondergaard, who noted that some CIOs are now placing orders for tens of thousands of iPads at a time.

“Productivity is the driver,” he said. “Twenty per cent of sales organisations will use tablets as the primary mobile platform for their field sales force two years from now.

As a result, by 2018 70 per cent of mobile workers will use a tablet or a hybrid device that has tablet-like characteristics.”

At the same time, Gartner believes that the bring your own device (BYOD) trend will continue to drive a change in asset ownership. Gartner analysts believe that in 2016 half of all non-PC devices used in business will be purchased by employees. And by the end of the decade half of all devices in business will be purchased by employees.

Corporate IT departments will “need to be in the business of delivering applications and data securely to devices they don’t own,” said Mr Sondergaard.