When end-users hear the term “social software in the workplace” they might envision getting busted for logging into Facebook or Snapchat at work.

But those who actually use or choose social software for the workplace will likely think of Jive, IBM Connections, Microsoft Yammer and Office 365, Salesforce Chatter and Community Cloud, Tibco’s tibbr and such.

Gartner named the aforementioned as Leaders in its Magic Quadrant (MQ) for Social Software in the Workplace.

Evaluating the Vendors

Gartner analysts Mike Gotta, Nikos Drakos and Jeffrey Mann looked at the marketplace and picked 14 vendors who meet their criteria for supporting people who work together in teams, communities and networks. They then rated each in terms of completeness of vision and ability to execute.

In this article we’ll talk about the vendors Gartner named Leaders. In a subsequent article we’ll discuss the nine others who qualified as Challengers, Visionaries and Niche Players as well as an unusual number of others that the analysts say didn’t make the cut.

Because teams of Gartner analysts create their criteria for each MQ a little differently, it’s worth briefly describing some of the variabilities in this one.

Sticky, Free and Easy

In the completeness of vision metric, for example, Social Software in the Workplace vendors were judged partly on their ability to play nicely with others (in other words, nurturing partners and third party developers), their adjacency advantages, exceptional innovation and end user attraction; in other words a certain level of stickiness.

In terms of marketing strategy, Gartner factored freemium and open source into the rating. And when it comes to offering strategy, cloud delivery and the availability of a marketplace that nurtures partners and developers were also weighed.

“It Works” Isn’t Enough

It’s important to consider certain aspects of the criteria by which ability to execute is judged.

The analysts wrote that they looked for functions and features including “social network analysis, browser-based productivity suites, dynamic activity streams, document repository integration, social tagging, social bookmarking, social search, general analytics, expertise location, group formation based on common interests, content/people ratings, people/content recommendations, offline support and native mobile clients” and more.

Not only that, but the analysts weighed a vendor’s ability to support 5,000 or more employees, as well.

Other criteria considered are similar to other MQ’s and include overall viability, sales execution and pricing, marketing execution and such. One exception worth mentioning, however, is that a vendor’s marketing responsiveness record was not factored into this MO because the analysts couldn’t identify “sufficiently independent and measurable factors” for differentiation.

Consolidation, Disruption or Both?

While Gartner, on one hand, considers this to be a maturing market ripe for consolidation, it also belabors the fact that that some similar capabilities are emerging from disruptive vendors such as Slack and Facebook (Facebook at Work) and well as via collaboration suite vendors who are using adjacent technologies.

social software MQ

Without further ado, here are Gartner’s Social Software in the Workplace Leaders in alphabetical order:

  1. Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM’s Connections “expansive” enterprise social network effectively leverages other products in the company’s portfolio and that of its partners. By combining its Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Enterprise File Sync and Share (EFSS) capabilities, IBM can literally provide Enterprises with all that they need to collaborate around work. The technology giant’s research and development capabilities, its vast portfolio of solutions and its clout with enterprise and technology industry leaders add to its viability. But too many good options can also leave buyers with decision-making problems and support concerns. Interfaces to external applications and developer tools leave room for improvement as well.
  2. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Jive Software earns top grades when it comes to customer experience according to Gartner; the analyst goes as far as to say that Jive is the “leading choice” for buyers looking for a dedicated “social software in the workplace” platform, as opposed to broader solution. What Gartner calls into question, however, despite Jive’s execution record in “growing its top-line revenue and maintaining its cash reserves” is its size. Jive, founded in 2001, is a trailblazer in this market, also knows how to run lean.
  3. Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft wins accolades for Yammer and Office 365, which can seamlessly leverage SharePoint for document management, portals and websites. Gartner spotlights Microsoft’s rapid pace of innovation around newer products like Office Graph and Cortana as well. When it comes to adoption, “Microsoft can measure its social and collaboration business in billions of dollars” wrote the analyst, adding that it would take a huge misstep or disruption to threaten its position. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any shortcomings, the deemphasizing of SharePoint, as CMSWire readers well know, caused some confusion for customers as might other seemingly duplicate capabilities in Microsoft’s portfolio.
  4. San Francisco-based Salesforce wins honors for its foresight in bringing “contextual integration” and “collective experiences” into its business application portfolio via products like Chatter and Community Cloud. The analyst points to the omnipresence of Salesforce’s social capabilities along a gamut of application cases such as IoT, e-commerce, wearables mobile and analytics as strengths. Ditto for its easy connectivity to Microsoft and Google (via Salesforce File Connect) and vendors, such as SAP (via Lightning Connect). Gartner’s concerns center around the lack of adoption among enterprises who don’t use Salesforce for other reasons; in other words, its products might be perceived as “application specific” vs. “general use”. The analyst also pointed out that its pace of innovation isn’t growing as aggressively as Microsoft and IBM’s.
  5. Palo Alto, Calif.-based TIBCO software takes its honors via its enterprise social network (ESN) product tibbr. Gartner highlighted its availability as both a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and on-premises product, making it a strong option for even extremely sensitive deployments. The analysts also pointed to its emphasis on “hierarchical, top-down information organization; tasks and idea management; and mobile support with location awareness” as differentiators as well as its integration with a gamut of conferencing providers (such as Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Skype, Google Hangouts) and content repositories (SharePoint, Box, Google Drive). Gartner does sound a notable caution, however, noting that TIBCO, which recently went private, is positioning tibbr as a “value-added product to existing product lines, targeting existing customers” which leaves room to question its viability as a standalone product aimed at the broad market over the long haul.
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  Title by Jim Sorbie