Social chatter needn't be idle

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Social business applications have been around in various forms for a good six or seven years, but it's only now that demand for the software is starting to ignite. According to market researcher IDC, the worldwide market for social applications grew from $968 million in 2012 to $1.242 million in 2013.

Social business improves the sense of gees by making employees feel like they're hunting as a tribe.

Gysbert Kappers, CEO, Wyzetalk.

It's a market currently dominated by the likes of Yammer, Oracle, and IBM, but Stellenbosch's Wyzetalk is looking to carve out a piece of the regional market for itself, with a home-grown social business solution. Its secret weapon is its understanding of the African mobile market, says CEO Gysbert Kappers.

Kappers founded the company in 2012, after he developed an interest in breaking down corporate hierarchies and erasing internal divisional competition during his MBA studies. Many South African companies have plenty of brainpower spread across their businesses, but they're not harnessing its full potential, he says.

The reasons for this are manifold: rivalry between company divisions, the slow pace of knowledge transfer and rigid hierarchies that limit collaboration. Wyzetalk's solutions are meant to tear down these obstacles by making it easier for workers to collaborate on projects and share information with their colleagues.

What sets social software apart from the heavily-hyped knowledge management and enterprise content management platforms of the past is that it's about promoting conversation rather than sharing files, says Kappers. "It improves the sense of gees by making employees feel like they're hunting as a tribe," he says.

The software has many features borrowed from consumer platforms such as Facebook. It gives users the ability to create profiles, send messages to groups and individuals, invite colleagues from suppliers and customers to join communities, create events, and so on. The idea is that this functionality will create a trusted and transparent environment where people will be happy to share ideas and knowledge with each other.

E-mail, which has been a mainstream business tool for more than two decades, is time-consuming and inefficient, says Kappers. Social technologies allow for ideas to be disseminated, knowledge to be shared and content to be created in a more productive and efficient manner, he says.

Kappers hopes a mobile-first approach, affordable rand-based pricing and local support will give him an edge in the South African market. Unlike most of its international rivals, Wyzetalk doesn't merely support the most popular smartphone platforms; it also allows users with feature phones to interact with their colleagues and receive rudimentary communications from the platform.

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