What's new on the enterprise social network front?

Yes, I could spend half my day talking about developments on the " enterprise Dropbox " front, but I could easily spend the other half talking about tidbits and ephemera from the "enterprise Facebook" front.

Yes, I could spend half my day talking about developments on the "enterprise Dropbox" front, but I could easily spend the other half talking about tidbits and ephemera from the "enterprise Facebook" front. The service sprawl is not quite as bad, mind you, but it's certainly getting that way.

The more I think about it, though, the more I find enterprise social networks far more interesting because, as in the case of mobile, this aspect of consumerization is helping to redefine the ways in which employees accomplish work. It's about re-imagining the modern workspace and that's far more interesting than solving the problem of how employees share and sync files across multiple devices.

Anyway, here's a few updates on products from VMware, Citrix, and Tibco Software. Coincidentally, the three ESNs seem a cut-above the rest and are all moving in a similar direction. They're companies that seem to "get it" from a product and user standpoint.  

VMware's Socialcast

Socialcast recently launched what they are calling the Integration Engine. Really, it's just a fancy way to brand Socialcast Reach 3.0, the new Community App Manager and a set of developer APIs to securely enable systems to interact within a user's activity stream. What do the changes entail? 

1. Reach 3.0 is essentially a non-technical wizard that can walk the average IT guy through integrations with legacy systems like CRM, SharePoint, etc. 

2. Community App Manager provides a way to publish and provision apps built on top of Socialcast. It also allows admins to monitor what apps are provisioned by users.

3. REST API gives IT departments a method for building truly custom apps on top of platform, rather than just integrating existing systems.

All of these changes bring Socialcast one step closer to its ultimate goal of providing machine to human interaction within a social enterprise network.  

Citrix's Podio

Podio, which began in Copenhagen and was acquired by Citrix this past April, considers themselves as less of an enterprise social network tool and more as a re-imagining of the employee work space. The focus isn't around commenting and sharing posts per se, but rather it pulls together an employee's task list, calendar, emails, messaging into a central location, while also providing a platform for building and using data-centric applications. Not only that, but now that Citrix has put some of its DNA into Podio, the platform can launch GoToMeeting and do video conferencing from within the application. 

Podio and Citrix seem to be playing a slightly different game than other vendors. Now, they're launching themselves into the mobile space with native applications for iOS and Android that seamlessly syncs between all devices. The functionality of the web app was basically re-designed for mobile use and written natively to take advantage of each mobile platform's strengths. If you have a platform like Podio that started in the web, then the logical extension is to extend it out to mobile devices. 

It's a necessary move for the company, even if it's just a minor one. 

Tibco's Tibbr

Tibco is known primarily as a software integration company, which comes in handy for enterprises and the social space. While most ESN's are just wading into the realization that systems and application integration is key, Tibbr has been doing that from the beginning. 

Version 4.0 of Tibco's enterprise social offering, Tibbr, comes packed with new features including a new enterprise social graf, a new API, third-party app integration and market, a new insights and discovery component, and an overhaul of platform's user profile system. The new features are all part of making the service more "sticky" for companies, said Ram Menon, Tibco's president of social software. 

The app market and integration is a huge new feature, and Menon said the company plans to build a developer ecosystem next year. For now, though, users can incorporate Box to access files and documents from within Tibbr. IT has the ability to choose what applications can be provisioned from within Tibbr, so you might not have access to Box or Badgeville, Wayin, Teamly, and other third parties that will offer their services to improve Tibbr. 

The new profiles are nice, as is the social graf and insights/discovery feature, which displays a linkable overview of activity relevant to the user in a colorful format with information appearing in boxes proportional to their importance. It's slightly reminiscent of Microsoft's Metro UI. The new features won't rollout to users until the end of November.


The ESN market is still a wide-open one. If it were a person, it would still be an awkward teenager growing through a growth spurt and trying to figure out how best to use its new body. However, companies like Tibco, VMware, and Citrix are going to have to forge ahead with new updates and features frequently -- especially as Salesforce.com pushes ahead in its quest to be the one SaaS platform to rule them all.

It also makes Microsoft's acquisition of Yammer seem necessary but foolish. With all of these updates to these three platforms and Salesforce's single-minded focus to become the web-based version of Oracle in the enterprise, does anyone really have faith that Microsoft is going to iterate Yammer to keep pace? 

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Devils advocate: do you really think just smacking in more features will help either of those tools to gain traction? Or help Salesforce to be the Big Leader? I think not (remember 1990, when VCR's could only compete by adding more and more?)

I think Less is More. Even on ESN's...  And yes, I'm biased ;-)

But also a product-designer by trade, and I learned that stuffing your product doesn't make it better. Taking stuff away does.



@Edwin -- I tend to agree that less is more and so yes, the better point might have been to look at the features that are crucial. Or look at whether or not the new features are even needed.

I do think organizations will need a better way to surface knowledgeable employees, contact with others, etc., which is why I'm bullish on ESNs in general.