Here to balance out all the recent talk on internal platforms is Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Externally Facing Social Software. The following vendors have been working diligently on adding features that meet the volatile expectations of today's customer.

The Leaders: Jive and Lithium

The Leaders quadrant is nice and spacious this time around with only two occupants. That only Jive and Lithium made the cut indicates that this market is still in its early stages of development. These vendors have managed to get an early foot in the door by establishing themselves with widely-used social software and collaboration offerings. 

Jive is a young platform in a young market, but has managed to excel in the viability and partnerships departments, making its vision a fairly solid one. Meanwhile, Lithium's advanced functionality turns heads, and the company feature a road map that brings reputation, influencer identification analytics and different engagement approaches with Facebook into the mix. 


The Challengers: Microsoft and IBM

Another roomy quadrant. According to Gartner, Microsoft and IBM are both sturdy vendors and certainly have the potential for leadership, but currently lack a specific focus on the requirements of the EFSS market. 

While Microsoft has done wonders with SharePoint 2010, Gartner says its look and feel is a bit dated for users. Further, it is aimed primarily at those inside the enterprise, not at externally facing users. IBM's specialty lies in Customer Experience, but the number of products it offers makes the implementation process a beast.  


The Visionaries: Telligent, Drupal, Acquia 

You know the drill: While they fall short of the scope of delivery exhibited by Leaders and Challengers, the Visionaries demonstrate a keen eye for future market trends. I would say this category is particularly significant in this report because Gartner has concluded that functions in the pipeline involve more risk for customers.

Telligent, Drupal and Acquia each offer products and product road maps that exhibit this type of innovation, as well as a tight focus on architecture and lightweight integration. 

The Niche Players

As the largest group of the quadrant, Niche players provide focused technology, and understand changing market dynamics. Their focused strength is also their weakness, however, as functionality is narrow and road maps lack urgency.

Still, many of these smaller vendors enjoy success relative to their size, and Gartner notes the possibility of solidified specialization as the social software market continues to mature.

Those that made the cut, in no particular order: 

  • Ektron
  • OpenText
  • Demand Media
  • ONEsite
  • EPiServer
  • Huddle
  • Adobe
  • Igloo
  • INgage
  • MindTouch
  • Mzinga
  • Ektron

Singing the Same Tune

Overall, Gartner's Magic Quadrant is pretty similar to the recent Forrester Wave for Enterprise Social Platforms. Author of Forrester's report, Rob Koplowitz, offers some insight by claiming that there has been a big shift from focusing on technology such as ERP, Human Capital Management (HCM, product lifecycle management (PLM) to collaboration tools (25% planning in 2011 investments in the former category vs 37% planning investment in collaboration tools).

Three key factors are influencing this shift in technologies:

  • Capture and re-use knowledge
  • Maintain human connections across a disparate workforce
  • Pressure to use new technologies for today's demanding workforce

Any thoughts on these factors or future ones? Drop them in the comments below.