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Blogs > Office Jotter

Starting a survey of SaaS-based enterprise social networking
Roger Whitehead By: Roger Whitehead, Director, Office Futures
Published: 15th March 2011
Copyright Office Futures © 2011

Bloor Research is preparing a new survey of enterprise social networking. The subject matter this time is offerings based on software as a service (SaaS).

As before, Carl Potter and I will run the survey and produce the report*. We’ll start with a look at users’ perceptions and experiences, using an online survey tool. The respondents will be end users with a good working knowledge of their organization’s enterprise social networking tools and strategy.

Our aim is to find out and, possibly, validate the main business arguments for using SaaS-based enterprise social networking. Some time after that we will look at the services themselves.

*You can see the results of our last survey here — “Corporate Social Networking” and “Social Networking for Business — Its Increasing Relevance”.

How to define

One of the enduring problems when compiling survey questionnaires is defining succinctly the topic you want answers about. This is tricky with new areas of computer use, as there will be a variety of views until the market settles.

We have a twofold task here — defining SaaS and defining ESN. Here’s what we’ve settled on.

1. Software as a service. We see SaaS as the Web-based supply of computing function licensed by subscription or according to use.

With SaaS, sometimes called cloud computing, the only capital equipment a user organisation needs is client devices able to run one of the main types of Web browser. (It may choose to buy or already have more powerful user devices, such as personal computers, but they are not essential.)

The user organisation also does not need to host any extra application software on servers — its own or someone else’s — or manage its own storage.

2. Enterprise social networking. For the survey, we define enterprise social networking (ESN) as using a controlled-access online collaboration system within the user organisation.

Most enterprise social software (ESS) can also be used outside the organisation, such as by customers and trading partners. (See “A map of enterprise social networking”.)

As a minimum, that ESS should offer blogging — ordinary or micro — and forums.

We have chosen blogging and forums as minima as they cover the publishing and personal communications aspects of enterprise social networking. Our assumption is that the other main components of enterprise social software will also be present. (See “What should you look for?”, here.)

Incidentally, we count it as enterprise social networking if an organization sets up a corporate identity on a public service such as Facebook but restricts its use to employees and, possibly, trading partners. It’s analogous to an intranet or extranet.

Some ways not to be doing enterprise social networking

We are not including in this survey other uses of public social networks. They are important elements of the overall social picture but our focus is on enterprise-wide networks.

Thus, we specifically rule out these arrangements:

1. Where an organization sets up for public use a corporate identity on Facebook or similar, perhaps as a way of gaining customer loyalty.

2. Where an organization delegates employees to represent it on public social media as part of a marketing or product support activity. It’s commonly done but is not ESN.

3. Where an organization allows employees to access their personal social media from work. That’s not part of a corporate network.

We are also excluding these possibilities:

4. Where an organization allows employees or trading partners to use its public (not private) pages or forums to discuss company-confidential matters openly. That would be a type of ESN but one they’d be mad to adopt.

5. Where a keen (or disgruntled) employee uses his or her personal social media account to discuss company matters publicly. We assume this would not be sanctioned.


If you’d like to take part in the survey, please contact us at You will need to have technical, managerial or administrative responsibility for your organization’s social network.

For every entry received in the survey, Bloor Research will make a donation to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

As an added incentive, we’ll be holding a prize draw from among the valid responses. The winner will get Amazon vouchers worth at least US$100. The runner-up will receive Amazon vouchers worth US$50 or more.


Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
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