Monday, March 4, 2013

The Battle between Enterprise SNS and Groupware

In Japan, many companies currently use collaborative software, or groupware. The giant is Cybozu which has more than 30% of the share in middle-sized and small-sized companies, which is more than double of the second ranked Lotus Notes/Dominio (12.9%). My law firm also introduced Cybozu and it facilitates our scheduling and communication, through functions to see the schedules of other lawyers, the bulletin board, and messaging. Now, this is a kind of "must" for many companies because of its convenience.

However, the future of collaborative software might be threatened. The new trend is using a social networking service for facilitating communication within the enterprise. Some companies use Facebook's group function to substitute collaborative software. Other companies use
Airy, Beat Shuffle, Chatwork, Chatter, and Yammer. (Note that recently Cybozu also released enterprise SNSs.) One of the characteristics of the service by the enterprise SNSs is that usually users can easily set up a community to share knowledge. This means that the cross-sectional communication becomes easier if we use enterprise SNSs. A small company might be happy with the current groupware. But for middle- and large-sized companies with many sections and sectors, this flexibility of enterprise SNSs seems to be attractive. As the interest of Japanese companies on enterprise social networking service increases, there is a concern on whether the enterprise SNS service will substitute collaborative software. Will groupware be replaced by enterprise SNSs?

On February 14, 2013,
Yoshhisa Aono the President & CEO of Cybozu clearly said NO to this question. His point is that instead of enterprise SNS taking place of groupware, what will happen is that collaborative software will have a new communication function similar to an enterprise SNS and many companies will continue to use this modified groupware.

He pointed out that there is the problem that in many companies data are being scattered around different software. In addition to backbone software, companies own many other kinds of software such as email software, data warehouse, and groupware. As the usage of a large amount of data (or Big Data) is becoming more and more important, it is essential that companies store their data in one place. President Aono contends that introducing new coming enterprise social networking software is against this trend. He argues that as groupware is already a basic infrastructure of communication within companies, the customers will continue to use the collaborative software. He even said, "enterprise social tools will be incorporated into groupware and will eventually be extinguished." (
Kigyo muke no sosharu turu ha gurupu uea ni torikomare te shometsu shite iku daro.)

It is still too early to assess whether or not President Aono's argument is correct. There will be many enterprise SNS companies which will try to survive in some innovative ways. However, at least it is clear that groupware companies recognize enterprise SNSs as an important competitor and that the companies are trying to incorporate convenient functions of enterprise SNSs into their collaborative software. As long as this competition is not too harsh, I believe it is good for the user companies because we can anticipate a great amount of future improvement in both collaborative software and enterprise SNS.  
DISCLAIMER: "IT Law issues in Japan" only provides general information about Japanese information technology law and does not, under any circumstances, constitute legal advice. You should first obtain the advice of professional legal counsel who is qualified in Japan before acting or refraining from acting based on this blog.

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