NewsGator Goes Beyond the Stream in v4; Introduces Internal Communications Solution

It's pretty safe to say that any concerns that Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer will hurt NewsGator can be set aside. The newest version of Social Sites goes well beyond the activity stream (and what Yammer can do).

Social Intelligence Goes Beyond Stream

The latest version of NewsGator Social Sites carries three key themes according to Brian Kellner, NewsGator CTO:

  1. We need to go beyond the stream (it's only the starting point)
  2. We need that stream to be intelligent
  3. Enterprise social starts on the inside, but needs to  reach outside the organization too

How exactly are those themes translated in Social Sites 4?

Questions Get a New Outlook

Q&A's are pretty popular in most social software. But they don't go much further than simple "here's my question" and "here are some answers." Social Sites has extended the Q&A by turning it into a business process. Which means you get functionality like:

  • have potential answers appear as you type the question
  • analysis as you are writing the questions, so it can be sent to the right places to get a good answer
  • directing the question to specific recipients who might be identified as "experts"
  • curation of answers
  • expert answers (certain answers flagged as "expert answer,") from people identified as experts

Social Sites 4 - Questions as a business process

In addition, there is new performance tracking of questions and the Q&A is added to recommendation engines. 

This approach to the Q&A improves knowledge management. In some ways, similar to what Moxie Software has done with its activity stream, you can turn a conversation into a knowledge item that can be used by everyone. 

Workflow Approvals

Part of the intelligent activity stream theme, workflow has been moved into the Activity Stream. Now users can see if something has been submitted for approval, approve/deny it and the user who submitted can see if approval has been granted. This integration also supports quick and easy discussions on an item submitted before approval is given.

This functionality works on both the web and via mobile. 

Additional Activity Stream Capabilities

The activity stream is becoming more intelligent in Social Sites. You can now follow Documents, in addition to people, you can format your stream messages, there is advanced compliance and now there is group collaboration. 

Suggested ahead is another new feature -- showing you options as you type in the activity stream. This includes showing relevant communities and related posts. 

Intelligent tips, which are configurable and extensible for a company, can offer suggestions on platform usage (e.g., you haven't posted in a while, or add a photo to your profile). These tips can be emailed or posted in the stream and they will vary, but will follow the priorities identified by the company.

Finally, you can customize the way your stream works with things like when to show mentions and responses, or what level of information you want to see in your stream.

Lookout Extension in the Browser

You don't have to be in Social Sites to see activity happening. A new browser extension, written in Javascript, helps you monitor what happening at a high level:


A Bridge to Office 365

For organizations that work in Office 365 for extranets and have an on premises version of SharePoint, NewsGator has a bridge that monitors the stream of extranet sites. It also offers a secure file sharing feature that replaces Box or DropBox.

The Office 365 NewsGator app is deployed by the Office 365 admin. 

Secure Mobile Tunnel

Social Sites 4 has a secure mobile tunnel that works with Azure to offer organizations the ability to work with external partners without needing to give direct access to Social Sites behind the firewall.

Social Sites Secure Mobile Tunnel

The Secure Mobile Tunnel is included with Social Sites at no extra cost (aside from what you pay for Azure -- which Kellner says is minimal). There's also no hardware or network configuration so it's easy to set up. 

Other mobile updates include push notifications and a new Windows 8 Client (also note that the iPhone and Android apps have been updated).

Taking Social into Business Process Management

This is the kind of functionality organizations are looking for in their social software. Social software can't be a standalone application, it needs to integrate with business processes within the organization to show that it can be more than a place of chatter. 

NewsGator's roadmap shows this going even further, something we are seeing from other social software vendors lately.