About this time last year many of my articles focused on the weak competitive position of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) vendors. The rapidly shifting marketplace was predicted to force some to evolve and some to die through the introduction of strong products of cloud based offerings of Jive, Drupal, Salesforce, Google+ and eventually Facebook. When the cards fell, this introduction would eventually raise the stakes of the employee-experience/intranet space to spur a reinvention of the intranet from the ground up.
Since the Prediction...
Drupal has developed more momentum around predictable cost models without proprietary license fees. A mix of professional services and PaaS offerings from the newly formed Wunderkraut and Drupal Gardens/Acquia combined with a strong pipeline of development staff make a good pair and an Ace kicker.
Salesforce has significantly increased its mobile capabilities this year. Combined with a strong marketing foothold into sales and IT and a high level of brand awareness, Salesforce looks very well positioned with an above average three of kind and is showing signs of going all-in as it tries to be the prime driver for the most relevant player in defining the future of cloud services for businesses.
Microsoft recently released SharePoint 2013 and is in the process of integrating its not-too surprising acquisition of Yammer. Microsoft is busy preparing its long term strategic offering roadmap that integrates the social, search, messaging and collaboration offerings from Yammer, Bing, Outlook.com and its crown jewels SharePoint and Office. Microsoft's oft cited atomistic approach through agglomeration will help them go forward with a flush. One of the most interesting messages out of Microsoft is its recent positioning from the SharePoint team. The articulation that SharePoint 2013 has been designed to not need customizations to its interface is a ridiculously clever product strategy message. From a product differentiation perspective what this means is:
- Microsoft has decided that the PaaS/SaaS model is not only acceptable, it is desirable.
- The argument that SharePoint is highly difficult to customize visually and behaviorally is moot.
- Microsoft believes there is limited to no value in marketing its product as "fully configurable".
It remains to be seen if Microsoft has created an experience that can transcend individual corporate nuances. What is clear, is that Microsoft believes that there are other competitors who have potentially bigger hands than they are holding.
In late 2011 Jive made the ultimate statement in the confidence of their hand and went public. JiveWorld12 is rapidly approaching and we will begin to see how they frame their value proposition and advance their product set.
Facebook seems to be holding pat with a full-house combining its elite social network status with what has been a demographic defying and highly successful drive for consumer adoption. While the house may be full, the cards are not that valuable (let's say 7s over queens), at least not to stockholders given their recent stumblings.
Google's Bold Play
Google has upped the ante and the stakes significantly with its opening up the Google+ product to enterprises. Google now has rounded out a serious suite of enterprise products and can continue to leverage its ace of spades in the hole. No matter how many research engagements for intranet users I lead, see or participate in, the number one request is to "make search work like Google". A powerful and simple search engine would magnify and capitalize on the over-reliance on governance that has encumbered every other product. Whether Google can capitalize on this within a closed intranet environment is unclear, but given that the experience searching in Outlook is both slower and more painful than Gmail, I'm not going to be the one who expresses doubt in their cards.
The Turn and the River
Facebook will either solve its mobile advertising quandary, or lacking that, will fold to analyst and investor pressure and develop new revenue opportunities by going corporate. Facebook's decision is amongst the hardest to predict given Zuck's steadfast adherence to his own guiding light.
Microsoft will specifically struggle with the transition to become a SaaS/PaaS provider and will suffer losses especially in industries and companies whose model requires content and data to be kept on premises. Every senior IT leader, almost every intranet communications professional and almost every intranet user of SharePoint that I talk to continues to voice their displeasure with SharePoint. It seems like the only ones willing to forgive the user and administrator pain that is SharePoint are the consultants. Given the penchant of industry to skip upgrades until absolutely necessary, I would argue that the advances made in the most recent release of SharePoint will fall upon many a deaf ear.
Salesforce, Jive and Google will be the biggest beneficiaries of any defection struggles of Microsoft. Salesforce and Jive will try to improve their middle of the pack hands, and Google is clearly the one to watch here with the question being: "Can Google capitalize on its strong set of offerings and high brand recognition to become a market leader in selling to medium and large enterprises?". In other words, will Google pull the Straight Flush?