Several weeks ago at a large technology conference I was asked the following question: “What do you think of social media?” That’s not a question I would typically respond to with a simple, “I love it, like it, hate it, or want it.” My eventual response to the question was based on my 15+ year background in Enterprise Applications.

Enterprise applications encompass a large variety of software solutions, including human resources, financials, supply chain, and manufacturing. As enterprise applications continue to move into the cloud, integration becomes a key part of the solution. One piece of that integration includes integrating applications into social media outlets. The natural questions that follow are, “How, where, what systems, and to what degree?” In other words, how much social is enough?

Getting to ROI

Some of the first thoughts that come to mind with enterprise applications are process, efficiency, and business value — not necessarily social media. However, every time we turn around, software companies and businesses alike are integrating more social media capabilities into their applications. Although the features are attractive, flashy, and trendy, they in turn leave the question with their customers of how and what they should use. What is the ROI for their business? And what policies should they put in place to protect the business from incurring the additional risks that social media brings to the table?

The capabilities and potential of social media offerings and integration are endless. However, like any other technology a “stop and think” approach needs to be taken when it comes to the integration of social media into enterprise applications. Where does it make sense, where can it create value? Where can it improve productivity vs. hinder productivity, and where is the boundary of social vs. privacy?

Cost vs. value

The debate continues over the adoption rate and value that social media capabilities bring to the enterprise. Most organizations point toward collaboration efforts and tools as the primary value add. Most if not all organizations view collaboration as essential to business success. However, as enterprise software companies continue to invest in and adopt new features and functions of social media, a nagging question remains: Can and should the enterprise take advantage of these new features and functions, or is the effort and cost too much?

Social media adoption requires business process changes that many organizations find themselves unprepared to make. As fast social outlets are changing, it is wise to determine if your organization is agile enough and technical enough to keep up amid a fast-changing social landscape. If not, seek help or a pragmatic — and for some a even tentative — approach to social media may be best.

These are some of the things to consider when determining how much social media should be integrated into your business’s enterprise apps. Do you have other questions or advice? Leave your thoughts in comments below.