Social in Manufacturing: Increasing Adoption, But Mixed Signals

By Kimberly Knickle – September 3, 2013
OfflinePhoto of Kimberly Knickle

We've just started reviewing our 2013 IDC Global Technology and Industry Research Organization IT Survey, and I can already identify some interesting findings that relate to adoption patterns for social investments for manufacturers.

To better understand social from an IT user perspective, we've deliberately left the definition open for just what qualifies as a social investment - social initiatives facilitate communication, collaboration, and decision making among a group of people.  The intent is to encompass capabilities that change the way we work, through social software or adding social capabilities to existing applications.  Our data shows that manufacturers in the USA are investing in enterprise social networks (ESNs), with 33.4% of respondents making investments of some kind, either through pilots, proof of concepts, or in production in a business unit or enterprise wide.  That number will increase to 39.2% in 12 months, but that data only tells part of the story we see.

Social blog August 2013 data.jpg

First of all, manufacturing is investing more than other industries in enterprise social networks.  Are you surprised? I must admit that I was.  But ESNs increase productivity and support more dynamic work processes by connecting people, information, and systems for problem solving.  Improving productivity is often the combination of social with other technologies, such as big data and social business for complex analysis and sharing the resulting information and analysis for data-driven decision making. For example, Sheila Brennan's recent blog (Big Data and Analytics in Aftersales Service and Warranty, August 30, 2013) on how manufacturers can benefit from applying big data to after sales service and warranty data points to the greater context the analysis will have across the company. 

Certainly, there's a place for social to increase awareness of exactly what the data means for the broader enterprise and how to make better decisions that cross existing lines in the organization, such as bringing analysis of field product performance to a social conversation that crosses engineering, manufacturing, and sourcing.  That's when an enterprise social network truly changes the way we work, and I can find many more examples in the way manufacturers work in their enterprises or value chains that could benefit from stronger connections and collaboration.   So from that perspective, it's really not that surprising that manufacturers are showing great interest in ESNs. (For a more extensive definition of social business, social software, and ESNs, clients can find it in this report from  Vanessa Thompson and Michael Fauscette:  Doc #239313 / Feb 2013, IDC's Social Business Taxonomy, 2013).

Second, our new survey data doesn't seem to agree with IDC's 2013 Social Business Survey, which Vanessa Thompson highlighted in a recent blog (What are companies doing with Social? Results from the 2013 Social Business Survey on July 30, 2013).   Across industries, the earlier data shows that 79% of companies have deployed a corporate sponsored enterprise social network (ESN).  Whenever we have a gap in survey results, we check factors such as survey size, regions, company size, industries, survey screeners, survey methods, and so on.  There's a good chance much of the gap is because of the difference between IT and business respondents, meaning business respondents were aware of more adoption of ESNs than their IT counterparts.   I'm fairly certain our data tells us that manufacturers agree that ESNs are changing the way manufacturers work, and that's good news.  But on the other hand, the data also implies that IT and the business need to work more closely to maximize what's in place today and to get the most value out of those ESNs to come.   

What's your company doing with social software today?  How is IT facilitating adoption among business users?  Let me know by leaving me a message here on our IDC Insights Community, or by emailing me at


About the author

Kimberly Knickle

Vice President, IT Priorities & StrategiesIDC Manufacturing Insights

>IDC Manufacturing Insights Community</a> ( and tweets (@kimknickle) about business and IT issues relevant to manufacturers, as well as…


Post a comment

Form Signatures

Viewed 1,244 times