The Leading Vendors in Social Collaboration - dummies

The Leading Vendors in Social Collaboration

By David F. Carr

Vendors in any enterprise will come and go, and some will merge, and product names will change, but like any industry, the leaders in social collaboration like Jive, IBM, Microsoft (with SharePoint and Yammer), and Salesforce.com will still be in the market share for years to come. The question is which of them, if any, is the right choice for your business.

These first three big players in social collaboration are available as on-premises software as well as cloud or hosted solutions.

  • IBM Connections: This is one of the most comprehensive social collaboration platforms, including activity stream, discussion group, task management, wiki, and file management modules. Connections can support both public and private social communities. Connections is a comprehensive product that also integrates with other IBM portal, collaboration, and content management products.

    Consider this solution if the credibility, support, and consulting services offered by IBM help make the sale to management. Connections also makes sense if you want a comprehensive collaboration platform, rather than one focused on the activity stream alone.

  • Jive: Jive Software’s social collaboration solution is rivaled only by IBM as a comprehensive social collaboration platform used by large enterprises, including tools for discussion, blogging, file sharing, and wiki-like web content management. Like Connections, it can be configured to support either public or private social websites. Jive gained additional credibility and financing with a December 2011 IPO.

    Jive may be the right solution for your organization if you want a comprehensive social platform used by major enterprises. The cloud edition makes Jive more accessible for smaller businesses and teams within larger firms.

  • SharePoint: Because Microsoft provides this product, it’s ubiquitous in large companies, and SharePoint 2013 made it into a more complete social collaboration platform. Microsoft’s 2012 purchase of Yammer (see below) opens new possibilities, particularly for users of the Office 365 cloud edition of SharePoint. SharePoint is often paired with social software add-ons like NewsGator.

    This may be a good choice for your organization if SharePoint already is being used effectively for internal collaboration, particularly if your organization is also a “Microsoft shop” for other collaboration tools, such as Lync unified communication.

The following leading social collaboration platforms are available in the cloud only:

  • Salesforce.com products: Salesforce.com offers multiple social products, including Chatter, Work.com, and Do.com.

    • Chatter: Chatter can be used independently as a stream-centric social collaboration platform, but it’s best known and most used as a companion to the Salesforce.com cloud software for sales, marketing, and customer support. Major enterprises often employ Chatter with their sales teams even if they use other social collaboration products for other functions. A basic version of Chatter is included for free with Salesforce.com CRM.

    Two other significant products are

    • Work.com: Used for social employee recognition and continuous performance reviews. Can be used in combination with Chatter.

    • Do.com: Used for social task management.

    Consider these options if you use other Salesforce.com products, particularly if your key social collaboration scenarios revolve around sales, marketing, and customer support.

  • Yammer: Microsoft’s Yammer came to market as “Facebook for business” yet it is also an increasingly credible enterprise collaboration platform for businesses large and small. In addition to a Facebook-like central newsfeed, Yammer supports collaboration groups, including the capability to include external participants. Yammer doesn’t include blog or wiki modules per se, but its rich microblogging tool and the notes module in Yammer groups can be used for similar purposes. Synergies with Microsoft SharePoint and Office are emerging and should become a stronger selling point over time.

    Yammer may work best for your organization if you want a familiar Facebook-like social environment for collaboration. The free version of Yammer includes all its major features, with the exception of enterprise account administration tools. Meanwhile, Microsoft is pricing aggressively for Yammer Enterprise and Yammer in combination with other cloud software like Office 365.

You should extend your search for a social collaboration platform beyond those mentioned in this article. The platforms listed above are only the big, credible players.