Technology evangelist Robert Scoble predicted that Facebook and Google will both wind up in the enterprise social networking market within the next couple of years, as they seek new uses for their social software.
This prognostication came as part of a panel discussion on the consumerization of IT at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Santa Clara, calif., an UBM TechWeb event. The discussion was led by Larry Seltzer, editorial director of Byte, which has consumerization as a major focus. He was also joined by Oliver Marks, founding partner of the Sovos Group and program track chair for people, culture, and internal communication.
Scoble said he sees the potential for Google+ as an enterprise social network that will be used for internal company communication.
Seltzer noted that whether or not a company provides an enterprise social network, employees often wind up "talking shop" on public social networks such as Facebook because it is an effective communication tool--arguably more effective than the ones deployed internally. When he asked if the public social networks will actively enter the business market, Scoble said, "I believe Google will be by the end of 2012. They will productize it and sell it to the enterprise and go into completion with Yammer and Socialtext and Socialcast."
The potential for Google+ to produce a business product that also links to Google Apps and other resources is somewhat more obvious than for Facebook to produce a business product. However, Scoble said he sees Facebook hiring the right people to allow it to produce an enterprise product, perhaps initially for its own internal use.
"By the end of 2013, we're going to see Facebook get into that world, right around the time they get to IPO," Scoble said. The Facebook user base is getting so large that it will be hard for the company to keep making more money by growing its audience, he said. Instead, Facebook is "going to have to convince people to do more on the service," and making it useful for business is one way to accomplish that, he said.
The broader trend of consumerization, whether with cloud services or devices like the iPad, is driven by employees losing patience with the rate of change in the official corporate IT environment, the panelists agreed. "The average enterprise is running Windows XP and Blackberry," Marks said. "Those are the plans they've made years ago, and they don't see a reason to change that." The IT mentality is "we're going to get an enterprise license for XYZ, and we don't want to think about it again for 10 years," he said.
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"I think IT is going to cave in," Scoble said. End users, often including the CEO, are going to insist on bringing in consumer tools that help them get their jobs done and will resist having those taken away, or even subjected to corporate control. "It would be hard for me to get convinced to connect my iPad to a system that's going to screw with my experience," he said.
Scoble said his employer, Rackspace, ran into this issue when employees began adopting Yammer in large numbers, until it got to "1,000 employees and it was doubling every few days." At that point, a committee was formed to decide whether Yammer was really the right enterprise social network for the company and, if so, how to get control of the deployment. This is an example of how startups, recognizing the difficulty of convincing enterprises to adopt something new, are going around IT and directly to the users.
At Rackspace, the decision was ultimately to adopt Salesforce.com's Chatter--in itself, a difficult decision because Rackspace and Salesforce are potential competitors in the cloud computing market. "That was painful," he said, because the employees had to be forced to switch. "They liked using Yammer, and now we were telling them to use Chatter, which is similar, but different."
In other words, Rackspace could make an enterprise decision about which new technology to use--but it couldn't simply ignore the demand for something new.