Gartner Names Wise Choices for Workplace Social Software

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In the market for social software? Gartner included 17 vendors in this year’s Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace. 

Like all of the other Garter Magic Quadrants, it's quite difficult to make the list. And squeezing into the Leaders quadrant is especially challenging. In this case, only Microsoft, IBM, Jive, Salesforce and Tibco managed to earn a spot. 

However, Gartner points out that Challengers offer solutions that have a strong market presence, and adds that these vendors have the market position and resources to become Leaders down the line. VMWare, Atlassian and Sitrion earned spots in this quadrant.

What's it Take to Make the MQ?

There is a whole list of criteria and weightings that Gartner uses for inclusion in its Magic Quadrant (available here free after registration). The short explanation for the social software MQ is that companies must offer a product that is packaged, marketed, sold and used to support teams, communities and networks, mainly within an organization. The core functionality includes:

  • User profiles
  • Group spaces
  • Content sharing
  • Discussions
  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Search
  • Activity streams

On top of that, there are a number of metrics that vendors need to meet. These include :

  • At least 80 employees worldwide that are dedicated to developing, supporting and marketing a social software product
  • Generated at least $12 million from the social product
  • Have at least 20 organizations with more than 5,000 paid users on its books
  • At least 300,000 named users across all the paying organizations
  • Have a presence in at least three geographies, or have at least 20 partners that sell or support the social product

To a large extent, only the big players are making it into the MQ because of criteria like these. But the MQ does provide a fairly good picture of the major players in the industry.

Before looking at the leaders, it is worth mentioning the list of vendors that didn’t make it into the Quadrant, but which Gartner though worthwhile to mention. There are some surprising names here.

However, according to Gartner they failed to make the grade because they lack sufficient market penetration in terms of relevant use cases or they don’t cover all the functionality criteria. They include, in alphabetical order: Atos, Bloomfire, Box, eXo, harmon.ie, High, Inform, Interact, Intralinks, Neudesic, Novell Oracle and Redbooth.

The Leaders' Quadrant

There are no surprises in the Leaders’ Quadrant though. According to Gartner, the Leaders are those that have a widely used social software application and have established their lead by early recognition of user’s needs, continuous innovation, and wide market penetration. They have also succeeded in producing a user-friendly product with a broad set of capabilities. In order of the way they appear in the Leaders Quadrant, the top vendors are:

Microsoft

With the emergence of Office 365 onto the enterprise stage, Microsoft’s social play started to change. While it has had SharePoint for just about forever, its social capabilities were always the object of some criticism.

However, with the acquisition of Yammer and its use as social layer all that changed. According to Gartner, Microsoft is developing all its social development around Yammer and will keep the development of SharePoint related capabilities separate, notably document management, portal capabilities, application development, business intelligence and web content management.

That said, Microsoft is progressively integrating the components of Office 365 more closely as part of its One Microsoft strategy, while at the same time extending Yammer as its social layer across other Microsoft products.

However, Microsoft’s move to the cloud is causing many existing customers problems in adopting its architecture to the new Microsoft reality, while other clients are struggling to keep up with the pace of change.

IBM

IBM is in the Leaders Quadrant again on the back of IBM Connections, which is essentially a collaboration, content and communications solution with enterprise social networking capabilities at its heart. It also has a number of other solutions that have helped it develop this market, including IBM Sometime, IBM Notes, IBM Domino, and Connections Content Manager.

IBM’s position in social has risen out of its longtime dominant position in the collaboration space as well as its provisions of enterprises and services software across the board. According to Gartner, IBM has been the driving force behind the development of social business for a number of years through Connections, which itself has evolved to include things like external collaboration, cloud deployment and mobile file sync and share. 

However, the social business message has been around for a long time and if that message starts fading, IBM‘s place in this market could be eroded too. Gartner also says that it could do more to attract, showcase and promote developers, or other third parties.

Jive

Jive focuses on enterprises that are looking for a wide range of social and collaboration capabilities. On top of the core Jive platform it also has JiveX, which enables users’ communicate and collaborate with external partners and communities.

Gartner states that its reference customers consistently cite the wide range of functionality and ease of use for choosing Jive, and customers report they are generally very happy with it.

It has a wide ecosystem on top of this and developed a technical and sales partnerships with Cisco, which has integrated Jive’s technology into its communication products. Gartner says it also needs to manage its evolution carefully, especially after it went public.

Salesforce.com

Salesforce has two related products that have placed it in the Leaders’ Quadrant: Chatter and Communities. Chatter is a networking tool for employee networking, information sharing, executive communications and collaboration among other things, while Communities enables enterprises build out larger communities of partners and employees.

Salesforce has a clear vision of where it wants to go with this as a ubiquitous, mobile, universal and flexible work execution environment. While both Chatter and Communities can work separate of each other, they work better together when used with Customer Relationship Management applications or with custom applications built on salesforce.com’s platform. Reference customers see Chatter's ease of use and ability to transform as one of its real strengths.

Nevertheless, Chatter remains a small part of salesforce.com’s business, while some customers report that salesforce.com's sales and support organization could be easier to work with when there is a need to involve third-party partners.

Tibco

This is the first year Tibco has managed to punch its way into the Leaders’ Quadrant on the back of tis enterprise social network product tibbr, which provides a wide range of capabilities for information sharing communications and collaboration.

Tibco has made tibbr as flexible as it possibly can offering it as both a SaaS and on-premises edition, even if the majority of its customers are using its multi-tenant public cloud option. For the largest and most sensitive data and deployments the on-premises options are preferable.

Over the past year, there has been an increased interest in tibbr as a stand-alone product even among those that are not already Tibco customers, which has enabled it increase its visibility not just in the US, but also in Europe and Asia/Pacific.

Tibbr also provides integration between it and multiple conferencing providers, such as Cisco (WebEx), Microsoft (Skype) and Google (Hangouts), as well as with business applications and multiple content repositories, including Microsoft SharePoint, Box, Google Drive and a partnership agreement with Huddle.

Gartner notes that although Tibco has joined the market at a time of growing interest in social software and has pretty successful so far, it needs to do more to differentiate itself from the offerings of other competitors moving forward.

Title image by Tania Thomson / Shutterstock.