There are some new kids in town. And some old ones still on top.

Forrester released its first Wave for Enterprise Social Platforms in three years this month. In its second quarter  2014 report, it named IBM, Zimbra and Jive as leaders for the second time, and tossed Salesforce, Microsoft and Tibco in the top for the first time. Zimbra was formerly known as Telligent.

 IBM Connections, Salesforce Chatter and Communities, Microsoft Office 365, Zimbra Communities and Tibco tibbr were cited as leaders in the space.

Gartner had a similar take on leaders of social software.

Why Some Stand Out


The enterprise social market is "chaotic" with many offerings, according to Forrester author Rob Koplowitz. In the cluttered market, vendors try to stand out with integration, analytics and partner ecosystems because things like activity streams, blogs, wikis and profiles simply no longer shine.

"Enterprise social has become increasingly integrated with adjacent technologies, such as document collaboration, portals and line-of-business applications like customer relationship management," Koplowitz wrote. "To that end, vendors with significant leverage like IBM, Microsoft, and will become more dominant on customers’ shortlists."

In Forrester's first wave for this space in 2011, IBM, Jive, NewsGator and Telligent (now Zimbra) led the pack while Atlassian, Microsoft and Socialtext were competitive. OpenText and Cisco were in the game, too.

Why this year's leaders? They are good at integration, offer a partner marketplace and are simply more complete than the others.

And for the record, when breaking out vendors by activity-stream capabilities only, Salesforce Chatter and Tibco tibbr led the way, and Neudesic, Microsoft Yammer, SAP and Socialcast by VMware were strong performers.

Let's take a peek at what Forrester's enterprise social platform leaders offer:

social business, Why These Six Enterprise Social Platforms Lead the Way

IBM Connections: Kenexa a Boon

The 2013 release of IBM Connections 4.5 included embedded document management capabilities that allow for quicker sharing of critical files for faster decision making. Additionally, social profiles, communities and files became available in the Communities' Microsoft Outlook client for more integrated Facebook and Twitter integration.

And the 2012 acquisition of Kenexa has really taken shape the last 18 months for IBM. IBM said it complements its strategy of bringing relevant data and expertise into the hands of business leaders with the integration of Kenexa recruitment and talent management functionality.

social business, Why These Six Enterprise Social Platforms Lead the Way

Salesforce Chatter: Communities Integration

Forrester lauded the integration efforts between Salesforce Chatter with Salesforce Communities. 

Salesforce in 2012 launched Chatter Communities for Service, private social communities that combine peer-to-peer customer service with access to company experts. Customers can log into a single portal and obtain answers relating a specific product or service from all relevant sources, rather than having to use different portals for different sources.

And last spring, it launched Company Communities, where workers can log in to a customized workspace where they can publish, update and review content, and then divvy up workloads based on roles and profiles of colleagues.

social business, Why These Six Enterprise Social Platforms Lead the Way

Jive: Consistency Rules

Jive keeps getting better with things like its Cisco partnership from last month. It is routinely among leaders in social software rankings by Forrester and Gartner and even the IDC. Its made developments in email integration with Gmail and Microsoft Outlook and its made inroads with acquisitions like Clara.

social business, Why These Six Enterprise Social Platforms Lead the Way

Microsoft: Office 365 and Yammer

Microsoft isn't sitting still. Yammer integration has been key for the software giant, and it's part of the reason Forrester likes them as leaders.

It's also working on Oslo and Office Graph to solve the problem of finding the right information in a timely fashion. Office Graph combines documents, people and conversations that are relevant for any given user.

Oslo is a search-driven app that offers a modern user interface (UI) for aggregating content. 

social business, Why These Six Enterprise Social Platforms Lead the Way

Zimbra: No Slowing Down

A regular in the Gartner Magic Quadrant and Forrester Wave for social software and communities, Zimbra's hoping to make another splash with March's release of its community software solution: Zimbra Community 8.0, which Zimbra says features customer support and private social networking for remote and mobile workers.

Zimbra's goal by integrating with Telligent was to provide "the tools and technology integrated and working together to streamline information in the workplace."

social business, Why These Six Enterprise Social Platforms Lead the Way

Tibco: Activity Streams Leader

Tibco's always had solid activity-stream capability, but it beefed up with its partnership with Huddle. Tibco has added file storage and sharing and task management. 

The file-sharing functionality integrates with Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, Huddle and SharePoint, so that files in any of those repositories can be searched and used within tibbr, according to a user’s access rights. Conversations, decisions and contributors for each file are also viewable within the social network.