Enterprise Social Networks are identifiable by the fact that they integrate with existing platforms and applications and they appeal directly to end users. In effect, they bring the benefits of social media to the enterprise. So how would you recognize an Enterprise Social Networking (ESN) product? It would be something like Microsoft’s Yammer, Jive Software’s Jive, Salesforce’s Chatter, and IBM’s Connections. In fact, those are Gartner’s four leading products in the sector (Gartner Inc “Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace” by Nikos Drakos et al, September 2013).
Drakos and colleagues estimated the market will be worth $1.4 billion in revenue by 2016, and described it as “dynamic and highly competitive”. Gartner looked at the top 20 vendors in the sector. Apart from the top four mentioned above, Gartner’s Visionaries were: Google, Telligent (Zimbra), SAP, Cisco, and Acquia. The Niche players were: OpenText, Huddle, blueKiwi, Igloo, Novell, Liferay, and Zyncro. And the Challengers were: Tibco Software, VMware, NewsGator, and Atlassian.
According to Gartner, “Leaders are well-established vendors with widely used social software and collaboration offerings. They have established their leadership through early recognition of users’ needs, continuous innovation, overall market presence, and success in delivering user-friendly and solution-focused suites with broad capabilities”.
If you’re thinking of getting an Enterprise Social Network, what are you going to use it for? “S.O.C.I.A.L. – Emergent Enterprise Social Networking Use Cases: A Multi Case Study Comparison”, by Kai Riemer and Alexander Richter (2012), analysed nearly 7500 messages from across five mature networks and found that virtually all the messages could be grouped into one of eleven generic categories. They were:
- Problem solving – what can I do with x that I can’t do with y?
- Idea generation – how we can make this group more useful to its members?
- Status updates – I’m in my weekly meeting with customers
- Work coordination – @bob Can you raise tom’s permissions
- Information storage – checklist for H&S
- Discussion and opinions
- Input generation – #NHF recommends
- Meeting organization – I can’t make that time, can we shift to 4pm?
- Event notifications – 19 May for leaving drinks.
- Social praise – thanks for all your hard work on cut-over day.
- Informal talk – congratulations on your new baby.
Gartner has suggested that the business objectives of Enterprise Social Networking projects are to:
- Improve general communication and information sharing
- Boost team productivity and effectiveness with projects and business processes
- Support communities that stimulate learning and innovation, diffuse best practices, and encourage peer-to-peer networking that strengthens professional and interpersonal relationships.
So let’s take a brief look at those market leaders.
Yammer was launched in 2008 and was bought by Microsoft in 2012. The plans seem to be that it will tightly integrate with Office, SharePoint, and application programs running on Windows. Yammer lives in the cloud and looks pretty much like Facebook, so users can find their way round it fairly easily. With Office 365, sites can run their Microsoft infrastructure in the cloud too.
Jive Software’s Jive was previously known as Clearspace, then Jive SBS, then Jive Engage. Jive (the company) was founded in 2001. Salesforce.com was founded in 1999, and provides a variety of different services to its customer base. Both offer a Facebook-like product.
IBM’s product is IBM Connections. It was announced at Lotusphere in 2007, and is currently at Version 4.5. Its components include a homepage, microblogging, profiles, communities, ideation (the ability to crowdsource ideas), media gallery, blogs, bookmarks, activities (a tool for groups of people to work together on a specific project or task), files, wikis, forums, and a search facility.
The ten IBM Connections components are J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) applications that are hosted on IBM WebSphere Application Server. In this way, the components can be hosted independently of each other, and large-scale deployments can be supported.
Importantly, if this is going to get any take up outside of IBM-controlled environments, IBM Connections uses plug-ins to integrate into existing applications, including:
- IBM Notes
- IBM Sametime
- Microsoft Office
- Microsoft Outlook
- Microsoft Windows Explorer
- Microsoft Sharepoint
- RIM BlackBerry
- Apple iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch
- Google Android Phones
- WebSphere Portal.
There’s also platform support for IBM WebSphere Application Server V8 and DB2 10, as well as support for the IBM i operating system.
It’s likely that once people start to use them, Enterprise Social Networks will take on a life of their own and new uses will be found for them. My feeling is that their use will continue to grow and you’ll begin to find them embedded in every organization that you visit – and you’ll find people checking them on their smartphones and tablets when they’re out and about.