In our first look at this year’s Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software for the Workplace, we saw a market characterized by extreme volatility. It is also a market where differences between vendor's products are difficult to distinguish at a functional level. However, Gartner found four vendors strong enough to make it into the Leaders’ Quadrant, named four challengers and offered a long list of vendors that didn’t make the grade, including some surprising names.

To make the grade, vendors must provide software that is used principally for enterprise collaboration by putting individuals, teams, communities and networks in contact with each other. From a quantitative perspective they must have:

  • At least 60 employees worldwide and an organization dedicated to supporting the product
  • Generated US$ 9 million in the past year
  • Have recorded 10% growth in revenue year-on-year
  • Have at least 15 organizations with at least 5000 users on its books
  • A presence in three geographic regions

The Leaders include IBM, Jive, Microsoft and Salesforce. Hot on their heels, in the Challengers’ Quadrant, are Atlassian, NewsGator, Tibco and VMWare.

Workplace Social Software Challengers’ Quadrant

Challengers, like all the other Quadrants, have to meet the general criteria described above, and have the market position and resources to become leaders. However, Gartner says they need a wider functional breadth, a more comprehensive marketing strategy or a rapid pace of innovation.

That said, Gartner says that all those included in this Quadrant have an established market presence, credibility and viability that could turn them into Leaders once their products rise above the "good enough" baseline. In alphabetical order they are:

Atlassian

Atlassian is here because of its Confluence product, which started out as a wiki-centric collaboration platform, but which Gartner says is increasingly being used as a collaboration and social platform for sharing content across the enterprise.

  • Strengths: It has a growing global presence with revenues to match and a very large customer base. Gartner says it has some of the richest, browser-based content creation functionality on the market as well as improved design and structured templates. Gartner customers say they pick Confluence because of its low cost and extensive capabilities, which include wide flexibility around third-party plug-ins.
  • Cautions: Although Confluence is developing all the time and at a pace to keep up with the market, it does not have the capabilities to lead the sector. There is a high degree of technical skill needed here, and its products are typically bought by IT departments.

NewsGator

NewsGator made it into the Challengers’ Quadrant for the first time this year with its Social Sites product, which supports employee communities, social networking and expertise location by extending the capabilities of SharePoint

  • Strengths: NewsGator’s Social Sites is one of the preferred choices for organizations that are not ready to use a SaaS solution, or when there is a strategic commitment to SharePoint, particularly the 2007 and 2010 editions. Its roadmap includes plans for integration with other business applications, as well as more intelligence use of behavioral metadata. A number of reference customers with a seat-base of more than 10,000 have vouched for its ease-of-use.
  • Cautions: While NewsGator has strong market traction, Gartner says there is uncertainty around the sustainability of its future differentiation, particularly if it just focuses on filling SharePoint’s gaps. This rings particularly true with the latest version of SharePoint, where Microsoft filled some of the existing gaps. In future versions, this process will likely continue.

Tibco Software

Gartner named Tibco to the Challengers’ Quadrant on the basis of its tibbr product, which is used across enterprises for information sharing, communication and collaboration.

  • Strengths: Tibbr is available as a SaaS or on-premises product. However, the majority of its customers are using the multi-tenant, public cloud option. As well as its wide-ranging functionality, it also emphasizes the hierarchical top-down organization of information. It currently integrates with a large number of conferencing providers, and has a large partner ecosystem across a wide geographic range.
  • Cautions: Even with integration with a range of third-party products, tibbr's range of built-in applications is limited. While most customers were happy with the user experience, Gartner says that a number of them commented on the difficulty of customizing the UI. In the long term it will need to add more differentiators.

VMware

Not generally associated with social technologies, VMWare is in the Challengers’ Quadrant on the basis of its Socialcast product that is used for information sharing, communication and collaboration.

  • Strengths: The latest version -- Socialcast v6 -- includes easy-to-use private messaging, geo tagging and conversations. It can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud, and can be integrated with VMWare. Horizon Suite for centralized policy-driven access to cloud applications. Many of Gartner’s reference customers here noted the ease of integration with other products.
  • Cautions: Although it is able to draw on the resources of VMWare’s ecosystem and customer base, it is only a small part of VMWare’s business. Its future with VMWare depends on it achieving a leading position in this market. While it is respected by IT users, it needs to become a lot more accessible to business users.

Notable Exclusions from Social Software MQ

Normally, Gartner doesn’t talk much about those that didn’t make it into the Quadrant and limits itself to outlining the general reason why it has excluded some vendors, without naming names. In this case, though, there is an unusually long list, which can probably be explained by the fact that functionality is no longer really a differentiator.

In this case, though, Gartner says that a large number of vendors didn’t make it into the Quadrant because they typically did not have deep enough market penetration, or their technology target areas did not fall into the inclusion criteria. However, Gartner says that prospective buyers should still take a look as they may have what those buyers are looking for. In alphabetical order they include: 

  • Box: Offers user friendly, mobile, cloud-based document-centric capabilities with more than 700 integrations. It also has an extensive partner ecosystem.
  • eXo Platform: An open source platform built on a portal foundation that supports content management, process modelling and an integrated development environment.
  • Harmon.ie: Focuses on ease-of-use across its document access and sharing capabilities for documents stored in SharePoint. It offers this without offering access to SharePoint.
  • Interact: Offers an out-of-the-box social intranet with broad capabilities, including all the major social functions. Version 7 offers simplified deployment and usage.
  • Intralinks: Provides secure content sharing between organizations, particularly those in the banking and finance industries. Earlier this year it launched Intralinks VIA, a general-purpose file sharing and collaboration.
  • Moxie: Collaboration Space is part of Moxie's wider, multichannel customer suite that enables collaboration with employees and customers. It also supports document collaboration.
  • Neudesic: Offers Pulse in the collaboration space and provides cloud features and a social-centric approach to pre-integration with SharePoint. Continuously adding new functionality.
  • Oracle WebCenter: This is becoming Oracle’s centerpiece for use engagement and has many components that fit into this Quadrant, including Social Network, which adds a horizontal layer of social capabilities across the entire platform.
  • Saba: Provides talent and performance management as well as social collaboration across its Cloud Platform product.
  • Socialtext: One of the early vendors in the social software market, it now offers products for social learning, intranets, onboarding a well as extensive collaboration capabilities.

There is a lot more here that is worth a look, so if you’re in the market for some new social technology, it provides a good starting point.