On the surface, there's not an immediately apparent link between social-networking software and enterprise computing. But in what it describes as its "biggest launch ever," collaboration software company Jive Software will take a stab with a new suite of social-business applications called Jive SBS 3.0.
The intent is to offer corporate users more ways to tap the knowledge of social connections inside and outside the enterprise. So it is that SBS 3.0 includes a variety of software modules designed to better bridge departments, partners, and customers in a single online community.
Sam Lawrence, the company's chief marketing officer, likened the product to "a very smart extranet--the difference is that this is a productivity app, whereas the extranet was akin to just opening a window."
Increasingly, this is turning into a crowded field where Jive will bump up against Microsoft Sharepoint and IBM's Lotus Connections, among others.
But with this release, which builds on the company's experience with two previous products in this area--Clearspace and Clearspace Community--one analyst said that Jive's platform approach may prove a harbinger, especially in a category that hasn't seen all that much innovation the last few years.
"I expect to see all social platform vendors move in the same direction, especially nowadays given economic realities," Mike Gotta, an analyst with the Burton Group, said in an e-mail message. "People looking at these tools need a more solid business case so vendors need to respond with more focused frameworks that target certain business areas, processes and roles. Analytics helps people not only with the metrics they need to substantiate their business case, but to also help them understand what's going on within their communities and networks regarding activity and health."
According to Gotta, clients increasingly complain of so-called point solutions, where there is one vendor for blogs, another for wikis, and so on.
"They are not always convinced that large vendors' platforms are the way to go de facto, though," he wrote. "SharePoint, for instance, has pretty significant weaknesses when it comes to some of the '2.0' tools that will not be addressed until the O14 release. So there's this in-between area for a social platform and that's where Jive is playing, along with Telligent, and several SaaS-based vendors like (Awareness Networks>, HiveLive, and Leverage."
Jive claims to be "the first and only company to connect employees, customers, and partners in a single community." But Gotta believes the challenge in front of Jive will be to provide more complete content management capabilities as well as ways to integrate with other applications.
"How will Jive 'socially enable' other applications?" he asked. "These social platforms will aggregate a lot of information over time. How do you expose and package that insight into a widget, or plug-in, or enable some type of syndication model or REST interface so people can build or integrate this information into their line of business applications. Finally, SharePoint--it's the elephant in the room--Jive will eventually need to have a solid integration and co-existence strategy with SharePoint."