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Microsoft, IBM, Jive Lead Gartner's Social Software in the Workplace Quadrant

Gartner has kicked out another report covering the the who's who of social enterprise software. This year's Social Software in the Workplace Magic Quadrant revealed a very familiar pattern, as well as some surprising changes. 

As enterprises continue to invest in the consumerization of IT, buyers are reportedly being more influenced by the vendors' strength in adjacent markets. As a result, one particular area of Gartner's fabulous four (hint: the best of the best) is full of companies with more established software in other categories. 

Leaders

So, here's a familiar situation: Jive, IBM and Microsoft are the only companies that earned spots in Gartner's "Leaders" quadrant — for the third year in a row. Let's take a look at why: 

IBM

As one of the first products to target this market, IBM Connections continues to put the company on Gartner's map. Other products work to broaden Connections as well, such as Lotus Quickr, Sametime, Domino and the WebSphere Portal Server. 

Strengths: Gartner recognizes IBM for its extensive resources, well-developed channels and numerous integrators and third-party suppliers. The company is also noted for its experience with large customers, and therefore large implementations and high scalability. Further, social business is identified by IBM as an important part of its strategic future. With plenty of research under its belt, customers should feel confident that IBM will be prepared for social change as it happens. 

Cautions: On the down side, IBM's size and product count makes their route a complex one. Gartner notes that products typically require extensive installation and customization work, usually performed by consulting business partners. Some users have also reported that the company's UI can take some getting used to, and that both  product installation and integration are more difficult than expected. 

Jive

Widely known for the success of its Social Business Software, Jive continues to show social gumption with increases in enterprise customers, the extension of its technology vision and revenue growth.

Strengths: In addition to a widely expected upcoming IPO, Jive has addressed what Gartner believed to be a concern in 2010 in terms of limited global system integration and technology partnerships. The company now has arrangements with several players, including Accenture, Deloitte, Dachis, Razorfish, Alcatel-Lucent and Google. Along with a social software vision buttressed by several acquisitions, Jive dresses to impress with continued innovation around activity streams, and the indication of platform readiness thanks to an app store. 

Cautions: Despite popularity, there's just no getting around the fact that Jive is still in its early stages. The company is still fairly small by the standards of enterprise software, and therefore could be affected more than point solution vendors if major infrastructure software or hardware vendors enter the market. Jive's Apps Market was also delayed by almost a year  from its expected 3Q10 debut, which in turn delayed technology partnerships that were dependent on that channel. This speaks to an issue of time, as smaller point solutions similar to Jive can show more immediate results for less money up front.

Microsoft

Like the other players in this circle, Microsoft needs to introduction. It's robust ecosystem and the broad penetration of SharePoint Server 2010 highlight its placement in this quadrant.

Strengths: The company is noted for having one of the broadest ranges of solutions out there, all of which work with each other fairly seamlessly. But perhaps Gartner's belief in the future of SharePoint is what's most important here. The research company expects more enterprises to seek collaboration and social solutions using SharePoint (or the SharePoint component of Office 365) than any other platform. Because of this level of popularity, Microsoft gets away with charging premium prices for its offerings, which helps to fuel development, marketing and other
investments necessary to sustain its position.

Cautions: While some thrive on the customization levels offered by SharePoint, others lose themselves in the management of it all. The user interface is also reportedly less intuitive than those offered by younger companies, and the portal's activity stream is generally considered to be much weaker. 

While none of this will come as a surprise to you if you saw last year's report, perhaps the Challengers quadrant will mix things up a bit. Stay tuned for a report on that section next week. 

 
 
 
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