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How to select an enterprise collaboration platform (hold on tight)

Linda Tucci

The first article in this two-part series on enterprise collaboration platforms laid out some of the forces that are driving business applications and processes to become

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more social. Here, SearchCIO.com gives a bird's-eye view of the vendor landscape -- it's crowded -- and some considerations about the vendor selection process.

Experts agree that the emerging enterprise social platforms share certain attributes: They aim to be relevant and accessible to workers; they are built for integration and come with a common set of functions. With their blogs, wikis and community forums, many of these platforms look like the ones that workers are accustomed to using in their personal lives, and that marketing departments employ to engage customers: namely, Facebook and Twitter. In fact, that's the point.

"The diligence, however, is quite different in these systems," said Rob Koplowitz, principal analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based IT consultancy Forrester Research Inc. Security, authentication protocols, identity management and other policy management capabilities are, or will be built to enterprise standards. "The question for the enterprise becomes how you go about doing this, because some of the strategies can be quite different," Koplowitz said.

As companies move from small pilots to broad deployments, defining an enterprise collaboration strategy and choosing a long-term vendor will be critical to success, Koplowitz warned in an overview of the enterprise social networking market published in April.

Here we present a sampling of Koplowitz's reviews of the vendors, augmented with our updates to new product announcements.

Cisco Systems Inc.: "Look at Cisco for social if you are a current or prospective WebEx Connect customer. Cisco's strategy is to deliver a set of highly integrated and commoditized collaboration, communication and social capabilities. And keep an eye on Cisco as it looks to bring new policy management controls to social technologies."

Update: Cisco's Quad, which Forrester Research describes as "an enterprise collaboration platform with a broad range of out-of-the-box capabilities, granular policy management and pre-integrations with Cisco's Unified Communications portfolio," will roll out in earnest in early 2011. Cisco soon will announce a cloud-based version of Quad for the small and medium-sized business, or SMB, market, according to industry reports.

Google Inc.: Take a look at Google "if you are considering the company's overall collaboration offering. Expect Google to offer a highly integrated collaboration, communication and social experience at a commoditized price, while keeping an eye on innovation."

Update: Google Wave, the Web-based platform launched in 2009 to merge email, instant messaging, wikis and social networking, was suspended by Google in August.

Jive Software Inc.: Consider Jive [Software Business Services] "if you want innovative social capabilities at a price point that can support broad enterprise deployment. Keep an eye on Jive as they continue to build out specialized horizontal and integration capabilities."

Update: Jive Software retained its Leader status, along with IBM and Microsoft, in Gartner Inc.'s Magic Quadrant for Workplace Social Software, released in October.

IBM: Look to IBM's Lotus Connections "if you are an existing or prospective Lotus customer, but consider that Connections works well in non-Lotus environments as well. Consider future integration possibilities with other IBM assets like Cognos. Assume that Lotus will continue with a pattern of frequent release cycles to drive innovation."

Update: IBM announced Nov. 8 that Lotus Connections 3.0 will come with social analytics to help users cut through the noise of social updates.

As companies move from small pilots to broad deployments of enterprise collaboration, defining a strategy and choosing a long-term vendor will be critical to success.

Rob Koplowitz, principal analyst, Forrester Research Inc.

Microsoft: Take a look at Microsoft "if you are a current or prospective [Office] SharePoint customer; expect a robust social experience with SharePoint 2010. Following the release of [SharePoint] 2010, expect a partner ecosystem to begin to provide more highly targeted horizontal and vertical solutions. Microsoft will also look to drive an integration strategy by leveraging internal SharePoint capabilities like PerformancePoint for business intelligence (BI) and external data through its Business Connectivity Services."

Update: A quick search of the term SharePoint on Google News provides ample evidence of solutions from the "partner ecosystem."

NewsGator Technologies Inc.: Consider NewsGator "if you have invested in SharePoint and require rapidly evolving, highly innovative social capabilities, or would like to add more robust social capabilities to an existing MOSS [Microsoft Office SharePoint Server] 2007 implementation. Also consider NewsGator if you require deep experience in government or defense."

Update: NewsGator announced two new features this month: an RSS module named News Stream for Social Sites 2010 and Idea Stream for Social Sites 2010, which it touts as helping organizations cultivate and shepherd ideas from conception to execution.

Novell Inc.: Look to Novell "if you are already invested in Novell technology, particularly GroupWise. However, Pulse will prove compelling beyond the existing GroupWise install base, particularly to organizations looking to drive adoption through a highly integrated, next-generation user experience."

Update: On Nov. 9 Novell unveiled Novell Vibe, formerly known as Pulse.The enterprise collaboration platform, in beta, is sold as cloud-based and on-premises software. Built on the federation protocol of the now-defunct Google Wave, Vibe offers real-time collaboration, social messaging and content sharing.

Oracle Corp.: Look at Oracle [WebCenter Suite] "if you are invested in the company's application, content management or BPM [business process management] strategy."

Update: Oracle Beehive, the vendor's unified communications and collaboration software built on a service-oriented architecture, was rolled into the WebCenter development software in October.

SAP AG: Take a look at SAP StreamWork "if you require a social application focused on knowledge-worker decision support. Keep an eye on SAP for greater integration of social decision support into core application offerings."

Update: SAP launched StreamWork in April. The software allows users to access and share documents, including Excel spreadsheets, BI reports and data visualizations, from one environment.

Socialtext Inc.: Consider Socialtext "if you want to stay on the cutting edge of innovation and your organization is ready to take advantage of social technologies to drive competitive advantage."

Update: Socialtext 4.5 came out Nov. 9. Its new features include a connector to Salesforce.com, and Socialtext Explore, a tool that lets workers search meta tags to find links, microblogging messages, pages, posts, pictures and files shared at work.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer.