Real Story Group Enterprise Collaboration & Social Software blog posts Copyright (c) 2014, Inc. All Rights Reserved. : Blogs en-us 04/09/2014 00:00:00 60 2014 Enterprise Collaboration and Social Software Logo Landscape #DigitalWorkplace #EntArch Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:27:00 +0000 Next up in our Logo Landscape Series is the 2014 Enterprise Collaboration & Social Software Logo Landscape. It shows how the 25 Enterprise Collaboration & Social Software options we evaluate in the Enterprise Collaboration & Social Software Report fall into 5 groupings:

- Platform Vendors

- Major Suites

- Smaller Suites

- Specialist Players

- Social Enterprise Layers

You can download a copy here.

Of course, these categories are merely a starting point for buyers looking to build a shortlist. This is a two-dimensional grouping that lumps key competitors together, but it's not unusual for enterprises to cross categories when building selection short-lists or filling out an overall architecture of participation.  As always, you will want to weigh other considerations like region, license and delivery model, application usability, technology platform, and architectural fit.

In fact, I recommend considering a variety of criteria -- like we specify in our Custom Short-List Builder -- to get you to to a good starting point to conduct further diligence and testing before you ultimately make a buying decision.

If we can help you here, please let us know.

March Madness: Digital Workplace and Marketing Technology Edition #DigitalWorkplace #digitalmarketing Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:08:00 +0000 For most enterprises, selecting technology can be like picking a winner of the NCAA Basketball Tournament:

  • Lots of guessing
  • Favoritism to the teams/vendors you know
  • Limited research
  • A mix of predictability and surprises
  • Untold amounts of money changing hands
  • Madness

At the Real Story Group, we have helped thousands of enterprises across the world make this process a lot less maddening. Our vendor evaluation reports help you get to an appropriate short-list – an Elite Eight or Final Four, if you will. We specialize in winnowing down your choices from an entire marketplace to the vendors and products that could best fit for your needs. 

Thus, we are once again providing you with a Digital Marketing Technology Bracket and a Digital Workplace Technology Bracket to help you get started in your quest to "cut down the nets" with a successful technology solution.


You can download your own full-size Digital Workplace Technology Bracket here.


You can download your own full-size Digital Marketing Technology Bracket here.

Some disclaimers: There's no such thing as a "best" software vendor. Thus, these depictions of the Digital Workplace and Digital Marketing technology landscapes are not indicative of any seedings; rather it is a simple grouping of some of the more significant content technology vendors that we cover. The vendors chosen were done so randomly since we actually cover more than 250 products from 198 vendors (you can see the full list here.) 

Good luck! And if you need help finding the right Digital Marketing or Digital Workplace technology for your enterprise, contact us and we'll help you pick a winner.

What does a vendor really mean when they say they cloud? #cio #Cloud Mon, 24 Feb 2014 11:09:00 +0000 One of the attributes that we evaluate in most of our vendor evaluation reports is "Cloud Services."

By “Cloud Services,” we mean to what extent can a particular solution get deployed in a cloud, by you, the vendor, or a third party. It's actually not always a simple proposition, but as enterprises seek to decrease infrastructure spending and free up IT resources, the cloud has risen to the forefront on many agendas.

Definitions of cloud vary and at the very outset, you'll want to distinguish between Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (Saas). Beyond that, when a vendor says they “do cloud,” it could mean a variety of things:

  1. The vendor certifies its software for installing in virtualized environments. Many vendors now offer versions of their software that can be installed in a virtualization environment such as VMWare. Other virualization environments such as Oracle’s VirtualBox are not that popular though and sometimes all the modules/features don’t work in a virtualized environment.
  2. The vendor or one of its partners offer managed hosting on a traditional version of the software in a datacenter somewhere. You still have control over customizing, extending, and upgrading the software; really, they're just replacing your hardware and network connections with theirs. We could debate whether this is truly “cloud,” but it may be useful.
  3. The vendor or one of its partners offers to host your software -- such as document management instances in a public cloud service, like Rackspace, Amazon, or Azure. You'll find many variants here. You could host your document management application on-premise, but take advantage of cloud elasticity for your content delivery infrastructure, to support global delivery or spikes in activity. Alternatively, you could split your storage between an on-premise setup and a cloud-based setup. The vendor (or their partner) may or may not manage your relationship with the cloud provider. The vendor may or may not convert its one-time license fee into a monthly subscription model. As always, you will need to pay more money to the cloud vendor to achieve greater levels of redundancy, reliability, and global dispersion. Also, don't forget the cost and hassle of VPN connections to your cloud instances.

    As above, you are still running “traditional software” as a dedicated instance and are responsible for whatever changes you make to the application, unless the vendor includes that as a managed service. Note that not all on-premise solutions will work in the cloud today.
  4. The vendor has built a multi-tenant, SaaS solution from the ground up. You'll find only a few serious SaaS options in the document and records management marketplace.

Nevertheless, be wary of hosting companies or other vendor partners that take on-premise software and convert it to multi-tenancy to sell as a shared service to more customers; this frequently does not end well.

We'll have more to say about different cloud related aspects in future blog posts as well as evaluations.

Getting smart about email in the digital workplace #DigitalWorkplace #e20 Tue, 18 Feb 2014 12:23:00 +0000 I don't know anyone who does not complain of information overload. In an enterprise setting a big part of this problem is email overload. Despite the increased adoption of newer collaboration tools the volume of email has not come down. In fact, perverse though it may seem, we now have more emails to process, as these newer tools send out ever more notifications via email.

Every day in almost every organization, countless hours which could have been otherwise better utilized are lost because employees are wading through email that frankly they do not need to read. But in terms of lost productivity the time spent on email is only the tip of the iceberg. Academic research shows that productivity losses can rise up to 20% due to distractions such as email. Employees typically only get a few minutes of distraction free time (11 minutes) but once disturbed, they take much longer (23 minutes) to return fully to the original task. Even without quantifying the exact loss and leakage happening because of ineffective email practices, intuitively, knowledge workers and their managers realize that out-of-control email needs to be tamed.

Unfortunately, there is no single silver bullet. Any solution involves a bit of personal discipline, changes in organizational norms and culture, and lastly right use of technology and tools.

Today's spam filters cancel out only spurious external e-mails, but they are not of much help in unnecessary internal mails, remaining helpless against "reply all" and "CC" habits. To handle this, managers need to emphasize that emails should be only on a need-to-know basis and discourage unnecessarily long list of recipients. In fact, you can tell a lot about a company's culture by looking at the CC lists of an email.

If continuous inflow of email messages through the day is the culprit for employee distraction and loss of productivity, enterprises can get smarter about delivering email in batches at designated times. I'd bet this alone would boost efficiency all around. There would be that much less pressure on employees to respond right away as email is received but be able to better focus on the tasks at hand.

Next is of course dealing with your own inbox. Personal email hygiene requires that you don't use reading email as a procrastination tool but instead be more purposeful. Multiple techniques exist based on your own preferences but the biggest is to set aside focused times during the day and attend to email only during those time slots.

Lastly, email, while simple and intuitive, is not ideal for all types of collaboration scenarios and communication purposes. As described in our enterprise collaboration and social software research, different tools like Instant Messaging, Chat, Microblogs, and Social Networking-style updates are all available to supplement email. Each has its uses in different contexts. Digital workplaces need to understand this communication-channel mix and enable their employees to utilize the best-suited tools in different contexts.

2014 Enterprise Collaboration and Social Software Market Analysis #e20 #DigitalWorkplace Mon, 27 Jan 2014 13:36:00 +0000 We have just published our 2014 edition of the Enterprise Collaboration and Social Software Market Analysis. This advisory looks at how the marketplace – both in terms of products and vendors – is evolving.

Overall, this marketplace is exhibiting greater signs of maturity. Gone are the vast promises of enterprise “transformation” and employee “liberation,” in favor of more staid — albeit highly critical — improvements.

We also find that pure-play vendors exhibit viability, but many of them are also shifting or narrowing their focus. As a customer, make sure that you pay close attention to product roadmaps and strategy shifts.

Figure 1: Enterprise Collaboration and Social Software Reality Check 2014 - large size

The advisory is available for immediate download to our subscribers. If you’re not yet a subscriber, get in touch with us.

Self assessment of our 2013 predictions #DigitalWorkplace #trends Fri, 17 Jan 2014 08:23:00 +0000 Every year, we make technology predictions about the various content technology marketplaces that we cover. And rather uniquely, we go back and see how we fared. Here are our assessments of our 2012 and 2011 predictions respectively.

And here's how we fared with our 2013 predictions:

  1. SharePoint 2013: Consultants Rejoice, Customers Yawn
    Yes. In spite of what Microsoft's nifty demos would have you believe, SharePoint is a complex platform especially when it comes to customizations beyond really simple tasks. You require consultants for that. A lot of them.
  2. Trans-Media Trumps Multi-Channel for Brand Marketing
    Yes. At least smart marketers are doing this. With improvements in technology, it is relatively easier to target your message based on context and channel instead of broadcasting the same message to all channels.
  3. Convergence of Social Media Monitoring and Social Media Marketing
    Yes, this is happening big time. Customers are increasingly using inputs based on monitoring of the social web and using that for their social marketing campaigns. Vendors are attempting to respond, mostly via acquisitions but true integration still remains a stretched goal.
  4. Cloud Adolescence: Business and IT Both Deal with Growing Pains
    Another yes. We continue to see Business as well as IT teams struggling even with basic Cloud issues.
  5. Web Content & Experience Management Vendors Litter Systems with Outbound Digital Marketing Services
    Sort of. Perhaps this was an overstatement. WCXM vendors did add many such services, but they are also responding to a marketplace that seems to prefer integration with best-of-breed digital marketing tools.
  6. The Autonomy Debacle Reverberates Across Several Technology Sectors
    This happened but only partially. While there were no big-time acquisitions in WCXM space, the search market really didn't open up as we had predicted.
  7. Document Management and Cloud File-Sharing Vendors Compete Head-to-Head
    Big Yes. We have seen a lot of short-lists with DM and CFS vendors on it. Both category of vendors are trying to spread their wings and building capabilities to provide services across both marketplaces.
  8. Contextual Mobile Delivery Rises to the Fore
    Certainly Yes. Context is becoming increasingly important as enterprises begin to switch from device management to multi-channel experience management. Hiding content based on screen size is becoming yesterday's news.
  9. Big Data Gives Way to Useful Data
    Another Yes.  Small-but-better-quality trumps Big.
  10. Rise of Social Media Compliance Concerns
    Did not happen in a meaningful way. Sure, Social Media compliance is indeed a concern but we didn't see any major differences from what it was last year.  Companies in heavily regulated industries may have to slog their tweets through onerous workflows, but increasingly they are engaging...
  11. Broadcast & Media Management Focus on Social TV Strategies
    Yes and No. Yes because Social TV certainly got more popular. The industry embraced second screen apps and companies like Samsung and Apple acquired second screen app companies. And No because MAM vendors were not at the forefront of this change.
  12. Several DAM Vendors Morph into Digital Media Management Suites
    No not really. Although some DAM vendors do provide other capabilities (such as document management), there's been no meaningful change in their overall positioning.

Okay, so we hit the nail on the head 8.5 out of 12 times (Yes - 7 times, No - 2 times, Partial Yes - 3 times) with .5 for predictions that were partially correct. That's not as high as it was last year but not that bad either in my opinion.

Let us know if you'd like our detailed inputs of any of these or if you'd like to talk to us about any of the marketplaces we cover.

Ten 2014 Technology Predictions #digitalmarketing #DigitalWorkplace Tue, 14 Jan 2014 14:26:00 +0000 It's that time of year for our team of Real Story Group analysts to reveal our 2014 predictions, where we try to predict what the future holds in the technology world.

Predicting the future is always tricky. We all want to gaze forward, but none of us is consistently prescient. In the list below, we identify ten trends that we think will happen this year. As such, they tend to be less “futuristic,” but ideally more practical.

As always, there’s a fine line between prediction and aspiration; in some cases below, we cite some trends that we might wish will happen.

This is our eighth year in a row doing this humbling exercise. If you'd like to see how we've done previously, you can view past predictions here: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007.

Here's our 2014 technology predictions:

1. Ascent of the "Sanctioned Second-Fiddle" CMS

2. Delayed SharePoint 2013 Adoption

3. Microsoft Backtracks on SharePoint in the Cloud

4. Enterprises Start to Own Mobile Experiences

5. Cross-Platform Mobile Compatibility Gets Worse

6. Standalone Enterprise Portals Marketplace Becomes a Two-Horse Race

7. "ECM" Will Finally Die

8. WCXM Suite Backlash

9. PaaS CMS Displaces SaaS CMS

10. DAM and MAM Vendors Add Social and Marketing Features

Non subscribers: go here to download the complete Advisory Paper with a full description of each of this year's ten predictions.

Real Story Group subscribers can get the Advisory Paper directly.

Updated social software evaluations - blueKiwi, Drupal Commons, Igloo, Socialtext, and Telligent #DigitalWorkplace #e20 Tue, 14 Jan 2014 08:56:00 +0000 We have just released an update to our Enterprise Collaboration and Social Software Evaluations. The reviews for blueKiwi, Drupal Commons, Igloo, Socialtext and Telligent have been updated. Here's a sneak peek.

European Systems Integrator Atos is now blueKiwi's parent entity and blueKiwi is often sold to customers as part of their "zero email" collaboration offering. Even if you are not looking to throw out email lock, stock and barrel, blueKiwi -- though lacking strong traditional collaboration functionality like blogs and wikis -- offers decent informal networking functionality. Footprint remains largely Europe-centric, though.

A common concern for large enterprises considering open source solutions is the kind of support they can expect to receive. We note in our review of Drupal Commons that enterprises can purchase support from commercial company Acquia irrespective of the Drupal distribution you are running. This is important, because the "Commons" distribution tends to run behind the latest Drupal releases...

Canadian vendor Igloo that targets mid-level enterprises, has been making its solution more mobile device friendly through responsive design techniques. Igloo's been slow to offer pre-packaged templates for common use cases though.

Socialtext, now owned by HR software vendor Peoplefluent, finally released a major update after a gap of nearly two years. Despite this, Socialtext still has a lot of catch up to do in terms of the product functionality and features it offers.

Telligent is now called Zimbra following a merger with a workgroup email solutions vendor Zimbra. Both product families are sold separately. Like Socialtext, Zimbra Social too, has a lot of catch up to do and the company plans to overhaul the product in an upcoming release.

Subscribers can download the full evaluations here. Or you can obtain a complimentary excerpt here.

Apache Cordova supports Ubuntu Touch -- How long before IBM, Oracle, and others follow? #cio #EntArch Thu, 02 Jan 2014 10:45:00 +0000 Apache Cordova, the open source hybrid app development environment, has released a new version (3.3.0 for those tracking it). This release fixes a lot of bugs for Android, Windows and Blackberry devices. More importantly, it also now supports Ubuntu Touch and Amazon's Fire mobile operating systems. My colleague Tony in this post had talked about rise of Ubuntu and other platforms, and why we need to pay attention to them.

Apache Cordova is very popular not just amongst developers but also amongst other enterprise mobile technology vendors. The big vendors like IBM (Worklight), Oracle (ADF Mobile), Adobe (PhoneGap), and several others use Cordova as the basis of their own tools. These vendors bundle their own value adds on top of Cordova and extend its capabilities for their customers.

However, there's a key shortcoming that you need to be aware of if you were considering one of those tools that OEM Cordova. These tools don't use the latest version of Cordova; in fact some of them actually use a very old version of Cordova. This has two implications:

  1. You won't get latest features (such as support for Ubuntu Touch in this case)
  2. Upgrades could be painful, since those vendors have created their own extensions

Now, some of this lag is only natural.  When a manufacturer releases a new mobile device, upgrades an operating system, or releases a new SDK, Cordova implements it and then commercial toolmakers implement it even later. There's a lot of testing that goes in between to make sure everything works.

However, from your point of view, this lag should become one of your evaluation criteria when evaluating these tools. Find out how long does it take for a vendor to implement support for new features released by device manufacturers. Of course they'll detail the difficulties predicting lags against future changes, but you can look at past history; unlike financial markets, past performance here can actually be an indication of future performance.

And finally, the emergence of new mobile operating systems such as Ubuntu elevate the importance of cross-platform development tools. We evaluate more than 20 such tools in our Enterprise Mobile Technology Research.

Show me the ROI, not the discount... #e20 #socbiz Mon, 16 Dec 2013 12:33:00 +0000 Among the swarm of promotional emails that floods my inbox daily, one caught my attention. It held out a tantalizing promise: “Work faster & smarter in the new year.” It seemed to offer a super bargain: “Up to 67% off.”

I know North America is in the thick of the holiday shopping season. The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas ring up to 40% of many retailers’ annual sales. Black Friday, Cyber Monday. and the in-between Shopaholic Saturday & Sunday are quasi-religious holidays themselves, sacrosanct for shoppers because of the seemingly all-around discounts.

Even then I was a bit surprised by what’s being offered for sale at a steep discount in that email: VMWare’s enterprise social software Socialcast.

Figure 1: Cyber week Sale: Socialcast Marketing Campaign

Now, at RSG we also occasionally run promotions on specific research reports, including at the end of the year, but what to make of holiday sales of subscriptions to not-so-simple enterprise software?

Obviously, Socialcast is trying to garner as much revenue as possible before the quarter and year turn. Perhaps they are driven by the need to meet a certain revenue target inked into the VMware acquisition agreement. Or perhaps they’re just trying to meet sales quotas, possibly  trying to nudge buyers who’ve got unspent budgets. Maybe they’re running an experimental campaign to see where it goes.

Whatever be their motivations, as a prospective customer, I hope you’re not swayed by price or price cuts alone. Yes, enterprise social software is maturing and we see some convergence of functionality offered by the different suites. But the social software category is not so commoditized that price alone should be the deciding criterion, especially since switching costs remain quite high.  As a customer, you will be best served relying on the scenario-based selection approach that we champion.

So, am I saying that Socialcast’s offer is a bad deal? No – just counseling that if and only if Socialcast is the right fit for your requirements, then by all means, grab that offer. This holds true not just for Socialcast but for any other vendor as well. Otherwise, you’ll be putting the cart before the horse, if you’re driven solely by the discount on offer.

Be a smart shopper -- look at "fit" and ROI, not the discount.

Update to our Digital Marketing and Digital Workplace vendor map #digitalmarketing #DigitalWorkplace Wed, 27 Nov 2013 18:12:00 +0000 We recently updated our Digital Marketing and Digital Workplace vendor map, which plots technology vendors across our nine different research areas.

As always, our aim is to capture the major players who offer technologies to help you manage your digital marketing and workplace initiatives. Our research evaluates products from all the vendors on this map, and more.

The number of "hub" vendors offering multiple technologies continues to increase, and we suspect that will continue in 2014. Vendors focused on either digital marketing or digital workplace / intranet technologies continue to converge with one another, mostly via acquisitions. Still, integrating the multiple offerings of a single vendor is sometimes like transferring tube lines at Bank station in London: a lot more effort than it should be to get from point A to point B.

As always, just let us know if you have questions about these players and the technologies they offer. 

Social Media Marketing is a Double-Edged Sword #socialmedia #socialmediamonitoring Wed, 27 Nov 2013 11:43:00 +0000 Two examples, one a hit and the other a miss, highlight the promise and perils of social media marketing.

What to do when the cookie crumbles?

The Super Bowl, or the annual NFL championship, is usually the most watched US TV program of the year. Not surprisingly advertisers pay astronomical sums ($4 million for a 30 second spot in 2013) to air commercials during the Super Bowl. Unexpectedly, the Super Bowl played in February this year experienced a power outage, where play was halted for more than half an hour as the Super Dome in Louisiana went dark. It’s almost as if a national pause button got pressed.

Ten years ago in the pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter days, the black out was going to be the number one water cooler topic the NEXT day.  But in 2013 conversations instantly erupted on social media and it became the number one topic of discussion on Twitter and elsewhere.

Oreo proved to be a smart cookie in riding this tidal wave of attention. Oreo’s tweet, sent out in minutes while the Super Dome was still blacked-out said “You can still dunk in the dark.”

Figure 1: Oreo Dunk in Dark Tweet. Source: Twitter

Perhaps that post wouldn't enter the advertising hall of fame during normal times. But its beauty lay in speaking to the moment and tapping into that ephemeral Twitter zeitgeist. Oreo also aired a regular TV ad during the Super Bowl, but their Tweet outshone that and the rest as well, becoming a “viral hit.” As a bonus, numerous media outlets also talked about it the next day.

Serendipity does not strike twice and there’s no guarantee that this success can be replicated. But Oreo was able to pull this off because they’d done their homework and were prepared. Prior research indicated that large number of viewers would also be following the game on second screen apps and on Twitter.

On game day, a full phalanx of Oreo marketing staffers huddled together with their ad agency reps for social media marketing. When the black-out happened, the team conceived, designed and approved the ad copy and imagery in about ten minutes. In short, agility allowed them to score a touchdown.

Now, it’s debatable whether Oreo saw a boost in sales because of their Twitter stardom. Yet can't we pose the same question about all those $4 million on-air ad spots?

What's the hashtag for hara-kiri?

On the other hand, giant US bank JP Morgan provides a cautionary tale to marketers with ambitions of becoming social media superheros.

As you probably know, JP Morgan managed Twitter's own IPO process, and perhaps all the related buzz rubbed off on the bank. On the day of the IPO, @jpmorgan tweeted that one of it’s senior executives would dish out career advice, with questions sent using the #AskJPM hashtag.

Soon enough, a lot of questions started coming in, but they were not eager young grads looking to pick the brains of the vice-chairman of a large financial institution. Instead, it became a channel for airing frustration with JP Morgan’s banking practices and its role in the global financial crisis. To be fair, JP Morgan is not the only big bank facing flak these days – the like-ability quotient of many of its peers is also not very high. But the hashtag went viral and became a lightning rod for having a go at @jpmorgan. Not surprisingly, the #AskJPM chat was promptly cancelled.

Figure 2: #AskJPM chat cancelled. Source: Twitter

Hashtag hijacking is not new. Many large organizations like McDonald’s (#McDStories), Ryan Air, and British Gas have all experienced PR traumas of their own on Twitter. On the face of it, getting a senior executive to participate in a TweetChat about career advice sounds sensible and even cool. But JPM’s social media marketing team didn't seem to account for the nature of social media conversations and the prevailing popular sentiment about banks.

Social media may not create negativity but it sure does amplify it. Conversational control is with the crowd and not in the hands of the company. If you have an offline image problem, social media does not solve it.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can also say that there was a mismatch between the message and the medium. JPMorgan may have experienced a PR backlash on Twitter, but the company remains a sought-after employer.  Many prospective candidates would have been really interested in #AskJPM, but in context of the dislike for banks in general currently, Twitter was the wrong channel.

The public mood is not difficult to gauge and perhaps, moderated chat on JPM’s own online turf would have proved more suitable. If your enterprise is not exactly the public darling of the moment, you may be better off using social media to serve existing customers rather than targeting potential customers or employees. JPM perhaps gained a positive take-away from this episode: sentiment monitoring is a critical component of social media marketing, and they got a fair measure of the public sentiment.

Social media is thus a double edged sword – be prepared for both the ups and downs – capitalizing on the small windows of opportunity it presents to project your brand, while avoiding hara-kiri by understanding the nuances of the new medium.

Our marketing automation and social technology evaluation research won't make you an ace marketer but can help you cover all the technology bases.

Join us for a webinar on Enterprise Social Software selection #DigitalWorkplace #e20 Mon, 04 Nov 2013 09:01:00 +0000 Enterprise Social Software is now commonly acknowledged as a necessary component of not just enterprise collaboration but also larger digital workplace strategies.

However, just because enterprise social technologies are becoming mainstream does not mean that you can automatically add these tools to your portfolio and start reaping benefits.  Indeed, we find that many enterprises taste success with their pilot projects but stumble when they attempt to scale this success on an enterprise-wide basis.

Technology is not destiny, but selecting the right tools that offer the best fit for your use cases will greatly improve your chances for success.

In a complimentary webinar this Wednesday, I'll outline some common challenges and describe an approach that's been tried-and-tested and found effective by large global organizations in their selection projects.

Some "take aways" from this webinar include addressing these common pitfalls:

  • Pilots that don't reveal the diversity of your use cases
  • Vendors tout functional capabilities over business scenarios
  • The grief that comes from check-list RFPs

To join us, register here and mark your calendars: November 6, 2013 12:00 noon EST / 5:00 PM UTC.

Beware the End-of-Year Budget Rush #cio #EnSW Fri, 18 Oct 2013 16:47:00 +0000 Coming upon Q4, our subscribers sometimes ask for advice about the surprisingly common dilemma of use-it-or-lose-it budgeting. Specifically, "We have budget funds we need to spend, or at least obligate, before the year is out." Of course, not every organization's fiscal year ends in December, but even so, the New Year often becomes a deadline for program milestones and personal objectives.

Just Don't Do It

The almost universal temptation is to rush to complete a big technology purchase. In many cases, this entails buying a piece of software and possibly some hardware to go with it. Or for a new SaaS/hosted solution, rushing to pre-pay for a year's worth of service.

This is almost always a bad idea:

  • You risk making the wrong choice
    When you select enterprise technology in a hurry, you have a much higher risk of making a poor choice. When that happens, at best you start the whole effort off on the wrong foot; at worst you can fail outright.
  • You'll pay more up front
    Vendor salespeople talk about end-of-quarter and end-of-year incentives, but in reality, when you are in a hurry, and they sense it, you simply won't get as good a deal.
  • You'll miss the critical benefits of an education-oriented process
    Making a decision in a hurry -- even if it's not a bad one -- removes opportunities to involve and educate key stakeholders so that they can help socialize the rationale for the choice and advocate early on for success.
  • You'll probably lose time
    If you buy technology well in advance of being able to implement it, you risk the dreaded "shelfware" problem, losing the crucial momentum you win by preparing to roll right from technology selection into iterative builds and adoption.
  • You might blow out next year's budget
    By now you probably know that for most enterprise projects, capital expenditures typically make up only 10-25% of the overall spend. To be successful, you need to account for the major long-term costs of implementing, maintaining, and enhancing key systems. Buying software now becomes an invitation to spend a lot more money later, so you want to create realistic, long-term program budgets.

What to Do Instead

There are many constructive ways to invest your remaining budget. My top three recommendations:

  1. Internal Capacity Building
    Most larger enterprises, most of the time, don't have experienced enough people in sufficient quantities to fully exploit the technology they buy. Improving the capacity of your own team should rise higher on your to-do list. Consider staff education in areas of chronic challenges, like user experience, information architecture, program management, and so on. Many fine conferences still await this year; we're participating in three good ones: KMWorld/SharePoint Symposium, Gilbane Conference, and Interop-Mumbai.
  2. Small-but-high-value projects
    Admit it: much of your internal data and content is ROT (redundant, outdated, or trivial). You can find an outside firm to help clean it up. This is also a good time to review and improve legacy business processes and identify potential dependencies on fresh technology.
  3. Get prepared to move confidently in the coming years
    You cannot ever become too savvy about the marketplaces where you want to buy technology. Working for a company that earns its daily bread by selling evaluation research, I am surely biased here. But the fast-moving pace of many digital workplace and marketing technologies means that savvy enterprises are staying well abreast of their choices. At a minimum you can build a better -- and likely much more durable -- business case by carefully investigating realistic costs and benefits.

By avoiding a big-bang investment this year, you can set yourself up for success over the next five years. If RSG can help you at all, please let us know.

The message from the Royal Mail and Twitter IPOs: it's the medium #DigitalWorkplace #e20 Mon, 07 Oct 2013 18:45:00 +0000 Two organizations are in the news currently in connection with their IPOs.

If you are in or follow the technology industry, you’d have perhaps noticed the news about Twitter’s plans to become a publicly-listed company. As many of you will know, Twitter began life as an unrelated side project in another start-up company in 2006. The founders chose the name Twitter because it meant “a short burst of inconsequential information” and its raison d’etre was not exactly clear, even to them. Fast forward to today, and Twitter has hundreds of millions of users across the world (from the Pope on) and is seen as a valuable marketing and communications tool. Inside the enterprise too, Twitter- and Facebook-inspired communication techniques and idioms have taken root and in some cases are improving collaboration flows and business processes.

Another side to new modes of communication is receding traditional methods. That’s the story behind Royal Mail’s current sale of shares. The Royal Mail of UK dates back almost 500 years -- it was the first in the world to issue postage stamps -- serving as a communications lifeline in the UK for hundreds of years. But in recent years because of the unsurprising fall in (snail) mail volumes, the Royal Mall's financial figures have not been exactly rosy, so the British Government is privatizing by selling shares. (Note here that Twitter too is not exactly profitable, but investors reckon that to be part of the normal tech growth process.)

What is the message here for enterprises? Amid shifting communication preferences, if you’ve been holding out embracing social technologies, consider that -- while some skepticism is well taken -- perhaps it's time to acknowledge changing preferences. Of course, in a large enterprise in which the workforce spans multiple generations – (Gen-boomers, Gen-Y, Gen-X), different cohorts may have different preferred ways of collaboration and communication; Considering that, your digital workplace strategy should strike a balance among different tools, matching them to the task at hand.

According to MIT Sloan Management Review the importance of “social business” (i.e. leveraging social network concepts to your business) is increasing across industries. However, as the study notes, many barriers exist, not the least of which is a confusing plethora of technologies. I invite you to consult our enterprise collaboration and social software research for help with your “social business” initiatives.

The Digital Workplace Trends 2014 survey is now open #DigitalWorkplace #intranet Wed, 18 Sep 2013 09:51:00 +0000 If you are reading this, you have a digital workplace. However, I guarantee you that my digital workplace is different than your digital workplace and that yours is different from the next reader. In fact, everyone's digital workplace is a different combination of technologies, tools, governance (or lack!), and culture.

Your digital workplace may include Enterprise Portals, Web Content Management for internal publishing, Social Collaboration tools, Document Management tools, and a whole slew of other specialized line of business and productivity applications. If you are a marketer focused on reaching external prospects, your digital workplace may include Digital Marketing Technology, Web Content Management for external publishing, Customer Portals, Digital Asset Management technology, or Media Asset Management technology. And don't forget that for each of these toolsets there is likely a mobile option.

With so many options at your disposal it is critical to make certain that you have the right tools comprising your unique digital workplace.

While every digital workplace is unique, there are certainly trends you'll want to track.  Fortunately, for the last 8 years, Jane McConnell has conducted a fantastic global survey looking at this topic.

We've just received word that The Digital Workplace Trends 2014 survey is now open and will close mid-October.

Organizations are invited to participate in the survey and each participating organization will receive:

  • A free copy of the "Digital Workplace Trends 2014" report on 31 January 2014 (this report sells at US $530 for non participants)
  • A customized Digital Workplace Scorecard

The survey takes from 45 to 60 minutes to complete. People can exit the online survey platform at any time, and return later to where they left off.

Sign up here:

Themes covered this year:

  • What makes up the digital workplace
  • Impact on the physical workplace
  • Social collaboration
  • Enterprise social networking
  • Video and e-learning
  • Information discovery
  • Mobile
  • Business impact of the digital workplace on the organization
  • Leadership involvement
  • Strategy, governance and decision-making
  • Change and challenges
  • Preparation for the future workplace

Please consider participating in this important exercise.

The Enterprise Technology Cocktail: Who's Your Mixologist? #EntArch #digitalmarketing Wed, 21 Aug 2013 12:42:00 +0000 As most who have met me know, I am a gourmand in the traditional sense -- I love to indulge in great food, fine wines, and a well-crafted artisan cocktail. I spend almost as much time thinking about how great dishes, wines, and mixed drinks are assembled and made to "work" as a successful combination, as I do the technical components of digital asset management systems, and how they fit into larger enterprise architectures with other technologies Real Story Group spends its time dissecting and evaluating

In food & drink, much like with technologies, some recipe combinations work, while others are utter failures. There are no one-size-fits-all combinations. What works for one person or company, simply doesn't work for another.

Earlier this year, I was chatting with the head bartender / mixologist at my local speakeasy in center city Philadelphia, furtively named The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company. He had crafted a beautiful, smoky, positively sexy cocktail from scratch -- completely off-menu -- based on a mood: I asked for a cocktail that made me feel like I was sitting by a warm fireplace in the English countryside, and I'd just had a dinner of roasted duck that my host had hunted for that morning. He smirked, reflected for a few moments, and then over the course of a couple minutes, assembled his creation.

After a few swoon-filled sips, I asked him how he made it. What ingredients, and how did that combination of ingredients, impart exactly the sort of taste (and mood) I was looking for? What struck me was that he knew exactly what purpose each ingredient would play in the cocktail, and how the different proportions of each ingredient would potentially influence or affect the others. He knew which ingredients would combine well, and which ones wouldn't. 

How many of us can say the same of the enterprise technology cocktails we're currently shaking up? (And let's face it, we're shaking -- not stirring.) So many technology cocktails, it seems, are just leaving an overly sour and bitter taste in our mouths, or worse yet, leaving us with hangovers. 

It was after that evening that I realized the craft of the cocktail is not all that different from the craft of the modern enterprise technology architect, digital marketer, or digital workplace practitioner: all of us are trying to assemble the right mix of ingredients to make our digital goals a reality.

And it's hard, especially if we don't have full knowledge of each ingredient's capabilities, weaknesses, and strengths. It seems easier to just buy a bunch of ingredients, shove our brand assets, documents, media, and customer data into them as quickly as possible, and hope for the best. Yuck. It's the same desperate behavior that causes some people to buy bad, overly sweet piña colada mixes, cheap rum, little pink frou-frou umbrellas, and call it a party. 

There's a better path to success. First, you can make a better tiki drink by following a recipe, and by using high-quality ingredients (please be sure to invite me for the occasion). Second, you can also combine and integrate your technologies more effectively, using the right ingredients for you. At this point in the evolution of enterprise technology, it's absolutely necessary that you do find a technology combination that works, allowing you to deliver the right content, to the right customer, at the right time, and across multiple channels - or your competition will beat you to it.

"The enterprise technology cocktail" is my theme for 2013, and possibly beyond. I've been talking about it at conferences and hosted a recent webinar on the topic. At this year's Henry Stewart Digital Asset Management Event in Chicago, my keynote presentation will be about enterprise DAM cocktails -- where DAM systems are the base spirit -- often integrated with Digital Marketing, Product Information Management, and Web Content Management technologies. We also cover the topic of DAM intersections and integrations with related technologies in our recent in-depth advisory paper: DAM Best Practices in Large Organizations

Your base spirit may be SharePoint, or an enterprise portal. Whatever it is, know the roles your technologies will play. Don't attempt to integrate where it doesn't make sense to do so. Be strategic about the intent of each technology ingredient, and the effect of potential mixes. In short, think like a great bartender.

If you need help crafting your enterprise technology cocktail, grab a stool at our bar. We're happy to help.

Do Documentum, IBM WebSphere, and SocialText really compete? Which path should you take? #e20 #EnSW Tue, 13 Aug 2013 07:47:00 +0000 Nearly all the tools in the marketplaces we cover claim to excel in "collaboration" services. Who could possibly not?

To some extent the vendors are justified, since collaboration has many flavors. For example, enterprises looking to create more collaborative digital environments often ask us if they should use their:



Most portal tools now offer many base collaboration features such as Polls, Surveys, Tagging, Blogs, Wikis, Forums, and so forth. Not all of these are new, but together they offer the potential for more dynamic information sharing in the workplace. Additionally some portals such as Oracle WebCenter have the concept of “presence,” enabling employees to see if their colleagues are online — and if so, the capability to start an instant messaging chat. This can be a powerful way to collaborate, particularly if your team members are spread out globally.

Many enterprises, on the other hand, are discovering that collaboration can become an important attribute in effective document management, particularly for more knowledge-intensive, ad-hoc processes.  DM platforms still provide audit or other compliance requirements that are not met by the portals collaboration tools. Consequently, the focus of document management collaboration offerings is on secure, shared document authoring and review, usually within a specified workspace or portal.

And your choices are not limited to Portal or Document Management software. You could, for example, use Cloud File Sharing and Sync tools such as Box, Huddle or Workshare.

Finally, you have a number of specialized social and collaboration tools such as Jive Software, SocialText, Telligent,Drupal and many others.

Remember that "collaboration" will take on different meanings in different organizations. For some, it is peer-to-peer, using email and IM; for others it’s WebEx-style collaboration; for some it’s document-intensive collaboration; and for others, business value comes more from social networking. Think about what collaboration means in your context and select the right type of toolset for your requirement. Let us know if we can help.

SharePoint 2013 as a Social Collaboration Platform #socbiz #DigitalWorkplace Tue, 30 Jul 2013 11:05:00 +0000 This week we released an update to our Enterprise Collaboration & Social Software report, with updates to Microsoft SharePoint (SP 2013) and Acquia Drupal Commons (3.2).

There's a lot to say about collaboration and social services in the new version of SharePoint, but perhaps the most important fact is that Microsoft bought Yammer practically on the eve of the SP 2013 release. Now we better understand why.

Of course, SharePoint remains a behemoth platform, so it should come as no surprise that at 26 pages, SP 2013 weighs in as the longest review in our Social Collaboration report. In addition to the Yammer buy, Redmond is heavily pushing Office 365 in general and SharePoint Online in particular. We continue to believe that the cloud version of SharePoint remains best suited for small- to mid-sized businesses.

With the Drupal Commons distribution now firmly climbing the 3.x branch, many Drupal 7 enhancements are finding their way into the platform. Many, but not all: the user interface remains stubbornly unilingual, for example. Commons is a great idea that comes up a bit short on execution.

If you are an RSG subscriber, you can access these two new chapters or the full report immediately.

If you're not a subscriber and want to get a peek at an excerpt from the full report, you can download a sample here.

H1 2013 Wrap-Up - A Look Back at the Year to Date #digitalmarketing #DigitalWorkplace Sun, 28 Jul 2013 22:34:00 +0000 With two quarters passed in 2013, now's a good time to review what happened in the world of digital workplace and digital marketing technology -- and what it means for you.

Digital Workplace: Mobile Promise, Social Reality

As social collaboration vendors turn more to execution over snazzy new feature sets, I think we're witnessing a marketplace that has come of age, as well as customers who are broadening the internal footprint of these tools. Vendors have increasingly focused on best practices, integration, building channels, and above all, developing cloud-based versions of their offerings. Of course, turning on-premise platforms into multi-tenant services is easier said than done. Just ask Microsoft.

Speaking of Microsoft, the big news this year was of course the roll-out of SharePoint 2013. Revealingly, Redmond began the year pushing Yammer for those customers who wanted a more advanced social networking experience. Perhaps you'll want to wait for SharePoint 2016.

After a series of use-cases documenting revenue boosts, enterprises are looking more seriously at innovation management, spurring a cottage industry of niche vendors addressing that scenario.

On the other hand, the enterprise search technology marketplace has continued to narrow, particularly after the Autonomy-HP meltdown.  The Lucene ecosystem may not have a monopoly, but it clearly built some more momentum this year.

Document and Records Management remains an important area for enterprise investment, but more around specific applications than mega-platforms. Documentum 7 -- released late last year -- officially came to market. Ten years ago a major Documentum release like this would have tectonic effects across many enterprises. Today, it's mostly a shrug. In other news, major document management vendors found themselves increasingly competing with lighterweight cloud file-sharing platforms.

Meanwhile, enterprises increasingly puzzled over how to provide better mobile capabilities to their employees. And no wonder; creating consistent mobile experiences isn't easy at a time when developers can write-once, but debug everywhere.

For better or worse, a unified mobile workplace experience may account for the recent resurgence of interest in enterprise portal software. If so, a wide array of portal vendors still competes aggressively for your attention here.

Digital Marketing: Many Choices, Some Emerging Suites

Web Content & Experience Management technology has always been hot, and this year has proven no different. A rising tide continues to lift all vendor boats, but Sitecore, Adobe, and Acquia are among the firms struggling to keep up with demand. For public, marketing-oriented scenarios, however, SharePoint is still playing catch-up with WCM in SP 2013.

We also observed that for global digital operations, the pendulum seems to be swinging back towards more local control, after more than a decade of (mostly) intense globalization efforts. For larger enterprises, this may mitigate against technology centralization as well. In any global replatforming effort, though, you should take the time to find Mr. Right, over Mr. Right Now.

Curiously, the SaaS model for WCM continued to stagnate, at least outside the higher education segment. However, more customers are experimenting with cloud implementations of on-premise software.

Digital Asset Management continued its surge into the workaday enterprise. One sign: we're seeing more experienced systems integrators get involved, and a greater desire among customers to link their DAM applications with other enterprise systems. In particular we're seeing a convergence between DAM and creative production tools.

Mobile marketing also exceeded some estimates, though it remains a very specialized domain.

Perhaps the most important finding for 2013 is that Adobe, Oracle, IBM, Salesforce continue to cobble together broad digital marketing capabilities via acquisitions.

Adobe acquired Neolane, the latest in its multi-year acquisition binge. Oracle spent most of H1 2013 digesting its bevy of 2012 acquisitions.

Salesforce finally acquired a marketing automation vendor in ExactTarget. This acquisition roiled the market a bit less than expected, and in the long run, the two vendors could represent a good fit, though they remain two distinct services today. Notably, Salesforce itself still licenses Oracle's Eloqua for its own email marketing -- foreshadowing the bigger deal the company inked with Oracle mid-year. Why Oracle? As Salesforce shifts from business-oriented to consumer-facing services, its infrastructure badly needs an overhaul, we think. Meanwhile, Salesforce rebranded parts of BuddyMedia, and also acquired EntropySoft, a vendor of content connectors.

It's increasingly apparent that these vendors are revisiting the circa 2003 phenomenon of a multi-dimensional suite for your digital marketing efforts. Caveat Emptor.

A Busy Year for RSG

2013 has proven a very busy year for us. In addition to updating our core vendor evaluations, we made some improvements to the Custom Short-list Builder service and delivered advisory briefings and recorded webinars on topics ranging from lessons drawn from the HP-Autonomy debacle to how to perform customer reference checks.

Dozens of organizations like yours tapped our analysts for advice one-on-one via advisory calls. We field a wide variety of questions on these calls. You have had some really important decisions to make this year. We've been delighted to help.

We also had the pleasure of consulting with an array of enterprises. In a consulting capacity we helped...

  • Three major universities pick new CMS platforms
  • A global news organization select a new WCM platform
  • A global consumer goods company rationalize their Digital Asset Management (DAM) strategy
  • Another global consumer goods company select a DAM platform
  • Yet another global consumer goods company develop a Digital Workplace roadmap
  • A major health services company select a B2B customer portal platform
  • A major insurance company select a B2B customer portal platform
  • A global home furnishings company develop a DAM strategy
  • A global accounting firm devise an enterprise content management roadmap
  • Two trade associations select new WCM platforms
  • A major television production company develop a Media Asset Management strategy
  • Two public sector organizations select new WCM platforms
  • A global luxury brand elaborate a DAM strategy

You'll notice we did not consult with any vendors (or speak at their conferences, or shill their webinars).  That would constitute a clear conflict of interest, since our core business is evaluating their wares.  As far as I know, this model is unique in the analyst industry.

More interesting things are on the way for H2, but that's another post...

Telligent acquires Zimbra - Does social software want to be email when it grows up? #e20 #DigitalWorkplace Wed, 17 Jul 2013 15:18:00 +0000 Telligent Systems is a long-standing vendor of social software and is evaluated in our enterprise collaboration and social software research stream. As we note in our evaluation, Telligent has been doing “Web 2.0” even before the term itself became fashionable and is best known for it’s online communities functionality.

Earlier this week, Telligent has announced that it is acquiring Zimbra, which sells enterprise email and calendaring software. Interestingly, Zimbra has been changing hands quite often – Yahoo bought it in 2010 hoping to make a headway in the enterprise market but later sold it off to server virtualization software vendor VMware. VMware wanted to use Zimbra as part of its cloud offerings but in recent times has had a strategy shake-up and as part of that re-think exercise, has divested it to Telligent. BTW, Telligent has better brand recall (at least in the social/collaboration software space), so it’s a little surprising that the combined entity will be called Zimbra.

At RSG, we often find enterprises complaining that social software does not play nicely with email and particularly, calendaring software. In this light, a combined social plus groupware suite could be interesting to them and the acquisition logic is reasonable. However, as I noted previously here, an acquisition announcement does not mean that customers can automatically start reaping the benefits down the road – much can stymie the hoped for synergies.

Moreover, in this case, Telligent/Zimbra will have to compete against some well-entrenched and deep-pocketed incumbents in the enterprise messaging market like Microsoft (Exchange), IBM (Notes) and even Google (Gmail). Not to mention broader Unified Communications players like Cisco.  Most customers would want their social software to work well with their existing communications systems rather than bring in a new solution. Tough to see how Goliath can triumph here against so many Davids.

They may grapple with execution issues (as any acquirer would) but the underlying message that enterprises need both social and email in their collaboration toolkit is resounding. In recent times email has taken a lot of flak, and some have prematurely written it off; but let’s not forget that it was not too long ago when email was being hailed as the killer-app of the Internet. 

The truth is while social networks and activity streams are fun, email carries the bulk of the enterprise payload. In large enterprises, information flows via activity streams can be overwhelming and need to be well-structured and lent some order (i.e. categorized) and when you do all that – it starts to resemble your good old email inbox. The bottom line is that both traditional email and new social tools have a place in your digital workplace.

In passing, let me also note that another social software vendor that we evaluate, Socialcast, was acquired by VMware previously and continues to be part of VMware. Note there were efforts to integrate Socialcast and Zimbra to offer a similar social + email +  calendar bouquet but apparently they did not go far. VMware says it is done with its divestitures for now, but this deal still puts a small question mark next to Socialcast.

Twenty-five questions to ask references for technology projects #tech #EntArch Wed, 17 Jul 2013 12:13:00 +0000 Yesterday we published an advisory briefing, "Vendor and Integrator Reference Checks: Ask the Right Questions," which includes a list of 25 potential questions to ask reference customers, and the rationale for each.

To quote from the report:

Technology buyers usually ask for customer references, but actually check them only rarely, missing an opportunity to enrich their understanding and evaluation of potential solutions and suppliers...

In other words, don't check references after you've settled on a candidate supplier; check them as part of your selection process, which is, in the end, really a learning process for you and your team.

RSG subscribers have immediate access to the complete briefing.

Drupal versus SharePoint #drupal #socbiz Thu, 27 Jun 2013 13:02:00 +0000 Every now and then a debate erupts within the SharePoint and Drupal communities about the other platform. See for example this recent SharePoint community forum post and this reasonably balanced Drupal community discussion.

My take is that Drupal and SharePoint are really very different systems, though I can see why people compare them.

What's Similar

Both SharePoint and Drupal are "platforms" that require substantial developer intervention and savvy to not screw up. Both can boast extraordinarily vibrant communities, especially developer and integrator communities, who tend to noisily hype their solutions.  Neither platform is particularly beloved by end-users. Both platforms have a history of difficult upgrades.

Both Microsoft and Acquia are aggressively promoting fully-managed, cloud-based versions of their solutions.

What's Different

Let's start with technology. In addition to the obvious distinction between their PHP and .NET language bases, there are some broader architectural differences.

  • Drupal has done a better job of creating a core/module architecture to support rapid innovation, if much confusion as well. SharePoint's "app model" is new and comparatively untested.
  • SharePoint does a much better job of playing with other applications. Or maybe it's more accurate to say: other vendors are highly motivated to create connector web parts. Drupal tries to be quite self-contained, sometimes in a very parochial way, and the Drupal community has only recently put meaningful effort into connectors and serious integration frameworks.

Of course you'd also want to consider licensing and support model differences, though I think these tend to get overstated. In our experience, against the same set of specifications, your longterm cost of ownership will not likely differ much between SharePoint and Drupal. You may see comments accumulate below that vehemently disagree.

The biggest difference really revolves around intent.

  • Drupal is a combination Web CMS + Community platform that over time has really come to focus on public-facing scenarios, though some customers use it for digital workplaces.
  • SharePoint is an omnibus information management and portal platform deployed primarily for internal scenarios, though some customers use it for public websites (we'd actually discourage that for larger enterprises).

So, you would want to consider Drupal versus SharePoint head-to-head in only a narrow set of use-cases. In our WCM and Social Collaboration vendor evaluations the two platforms score quite differently from a scenario perspective. If you're an RSG subscriber, you can visualize this delta via our Custom ShortList Builder.

In other words, take a business perspective first. And when you do, you may find that SharePoint versus Drupal is actually a false choice...

Newsgator Social Sites Internal Communications Solution - A Quick Take #e20 #DigitalWorkplace Wed, 26 Jun 2013 14:50:00 +0000 At RSG, we’re big fans of scenario-based software selection.  We maintain that there is no “best” product but rather a best-fit product for your business scenarios (a.k.a., use cases). As enterprise social software initiatives are maturing, both customers and vendors are increasingly realizing that while “a Facebook for the enterprise” may be fun for a while, greater benefits lie elsewhere. For instance, integrating social features in routine business processes and workflows. Or taking specific business functions and trying to “socialize” them.

An interesting social application that targets the corporate internal communications use case is Newsgator’s Internal Communication Solution (ICS). ICS is an optional module built on top of Newsgator's flagship Social Sites software, enabling corporate communications teams to send customized messages for different groups of internal audiences. Messages can be promoted (i.e. highlighted, or made “sticky”) and delivered based on employee timezones. While these features are to be expected, what’s noteworthy is that you can perform some sentiment analysis and track conversations that may have been spurred in the company. Many corporate communications teams feel they are shooting arrows in the dark and this feedback mechanism can be useful and help them fine-tune their employee communications.  All caveats about the inconsistency of sentiment analysis and related technologies still apply here. 

By the way, while on the topic of internal communications, I should note here that VMWare Socialcast offers “Town Hall”, which as the name suggests, enables online executive-employee communications, alongside accompanying social-networking-style conversations.

Coming back to Newsgator ICS, another notable thing is its use of the vendor's “Tiles” UI pattern widget, which lets employees filter their message/notifications. Activity streams, particularly in a large enterprise, can quickly become unwieldy and overwhelm the user and any information-organization schemes that can keep things under control for employees are welcome. Of course, many employees may chose to filter out those official corporate messages...   Note also that Newsgator is not unique in this regard – other vendors like tibbr also provide Tiles-style widgets.

While I discussed only the internal communications use cases here, our collaboration and social software research evaluates vendors against many other use cases and application scenarios.