SINGAPORE - A survey conducted by IT research agency IDC, on behalf of Microsoft, shows that 52 per cent of companies in Singapore have an enterprise social network in place and an additional 23 per cent plant to adopt one in the next 18 months.
Todd Cione, Microsoft chief marketing and operations officer for Asia, notes that a social network is not just a new set of tools - it is a new way of thinking about an organisation.
"It's about putting people at the centre of the organisation; and ensuring that customers, employees and partners can connect with the people and information they need to actually get their work done.
To truly enable a connected user experience, you have to create a single set of tools that integrate both productivity (the 'where' you work) and social tools (the 'how' you talk) into the same place."
The survey, which interviewed 352 decision makers and influencers from medium and large enterprises from across three sub-regions in Asia-Pacific - Asean (Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand), ANZ (Australia and New Zealand) and South Korea - highlighted a dramatic shift in priorities.
Organisations are looking to enterprise social technologies to gain competitive advantage, placing them well above investments in core networks, cloud computing and business intelligence, the survey notes.
Driving this trend in Asia-Pacific are several factors including a young workforce, early adoption of gadgets and social media, as well as cultural trends such as relationship-focused business dealings.
The Microsoft official notes that the rise of social media and networking is "profoundly" affecting the way that organisations conduct their business; and it is poised to be particularly impactful in Asia as enterprises encourage the sharing of ideas, conversations and collaboration, while empowering employees.
Globalisation is making Asian organisations not only more connected but also more integrated.
Asia's economy has grown tremendously since the introduction of the Internet in the late 1990s.
From 2007 to 2012, the growth in the number of Asia-Pacific Internet users has been unprecedented, rising from 418 million to over one billion.
In Singapore, there are 9.64 million Internet broadband subscribers and 1.51 mobile phone line subscription per person in a country with 5.18 million people, Mr Cione adds.
The rise in the use of social networks is equally remarkable with 204.9 million Facebook users in Asia, roughly 27 per cent of Facebook's non US/Canada user base.
"Facebook is not alone; services such as Skype and Live Messenger have also grown, reporting more than a quarter of a billion registered users world-wide."
This phenomenon has not only changed the way that organisations relate to their customers and the public as a whole, but also the way that they function internally and the types of technology that they need to deploy.
Although social networking is predominantly consumer focused, it is increasingly relevant to the workplace as consumer technology and services dictate which types of hardware, software and services enterprises need to adopt to ensure that employees work efficiently, productively and collaboratively while remaining satisfied in their work environment, says Mr Cione.
In Singapore and the rest of the Asean region, e-mail and instant messaging are cornerstones of enterprise social network.
Respondents in Singapore identified unified communications as an important part of enterprise social network.
Currently, Singapore businesses are using social tools to enhance internal training and learning management, human resource functions, and collaboration with partners and customers.
Claus Mortensen, director of emerging technology research at IDC Asia-Pacific, adds that security, compliance, governance and lack of control are cited as the most important inhibitors to implement enterprise social networks.
"However, it is not viable for companies to resist adoption as end-users may turn to Internet-based, consumer grade, and potentially less secure options. Organisations will need to educate themselves on the availability of solutions that also fulfil their IT requirements."