Last week Bob Evans at InformationWeek caused a stir by publishing a list of the Top 20 Most Influential Tech Vendors.  While the list included the usual suspects, such as Google, IBM, EMC, VMware, etc., there were also a few surprises.  The big surprise was that Microsoft came in at number #11.  The second (pleasant) surprise is that Jive Software was number #13, only two vendors away from Microsoft.


You might wonder, why is Microsoft ranked so low, and what has pushed a small, start-up vendor such as Jive to join these titans as the #13 most influential technology vendor in the world?


Bob Evans is spot on in his intro to the article: “I'm proposing to include some surprises because some IT vendors from outside the traditional enterprise bubble have come crashing in with unconventional ideas that have jarred conventional thinking and approaches.”


When you really get down to it, the fact that Microsoft is hurtling towards the bottom of that list is really not a surprise.  It’s indicative of a seismic shift happening in enterprise software today, as companies are revolting against a decade of lost innovation and productivity. The steep adoption of the iPad, the rise of mobile, the migration to cloud computing and virtualization are dramatically driving down the use of PCs along with Microsoft’s relevance in the enterprise.  Microsoft's consistent failure to innovate has finally caught up with them.


The fact that an up and coming vendor such as Jive was on the list might be surprising but is a consequence of a second, related shift happening in the enterprise: the rise of social. The adoption of social in our consumer lives is a no brainer.  In the last few months alone, Facebook has reached 500 million users, Twitter has surpassed its 15 billionth tweet, and LinkedIn has topped 80 million users.  What’s more interesting is that social is finally taking over the enterprise, as companies are looking to get meaningful breakthroughs in revenue, cost cutting and innovation.  Gartner recently released their Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2011, with Social Communications and Collaboration at the top of the list. Gartner predicts that by 2016, social technologies will be integrated with most business applications.


After a decade of IT malaise in which the biggest innovations came in infrastructure, we are about to see a monumental shift in the way the enterprise uses social software to get business done.


Social Business is the new way to business. I’m not just talking about using Facebook fan pages, or having a Twitter account. I’m talking about fundamentally rethinking the way you engage with employees, customers, partners and suppliers.


Let’s give this a little context. In five years:

  • Will the flow of information in your company be less restricted and siloed?
  • Will the software we provide employees be more engaging?
  • Will employees use email less?
  • Will the org structure be less hierarchical?
  • Will employees be more mobile?
  • Will more of our new ideas come from outside company?
  • Will we have stronger relationships with our customers?
  • Will we rely less on call centers?


To remain competitive, YES is the only answer to these questions. Each of these highlights the seismic shifts happening now that I described above.


As technology has become pervasive in our personal lives, we’ve learned that sharing information doesn’t require Word documents and endless email. We’ve learned that it can actually be enjoyable to use software. We’ve come to expect that we can find the right person at the right time and that interesting information will find us. We’ve come to believe that companies will treat us as individuals, not manage us. Finally, we’ve come to expect information real-time from multiple sources, including our peers. And we have a megaphone to use if we are not happy.


You’ve got a choice. You can pretend this isn’t happening. OR you can use social business smartly for material competitive advantage.


Adopting social business will likely be the single most important business decision you make this decade. To quote John Doerr, at the recent launch of the Kleiner Perkins sFund, ‘"If you don't have a social strategy, you'd better go get one."