Great comparison of some of the alternatives to Lotus Connections and LotusLive

Here at Collaboration Matters, whilst we’re advocates of Lotus social and collaboration software and the LotusLive range of cloud offerings, we’re not blind to the need for alternative offerings from other vendors – particularly where the products integrate well (e.g. with SocialText or Atlassian integration in Lotus Connections) or where the Lotus offerings do not play an especially strong hand, such as in organisations with fewer than 100 users.  

We therefore also have partnerships with vendors such as SocialText, Atlassian and Jive, and are working with these companies on a regular basis in order to skill up in their technologies and to be in a position to deliver them to our usual high standards when the right situation arises.

I was therefore fascinated to see this InfoWorld comparison of social collaboration offerings from SocialText, Jive, CubeTree and Telligent:

Enterprise social software spurs connections

The InfoWorld Test Center reveals the strengths and weaknesses of blogging, wiki, and community solutions from CubeTree, Jive, Socialtext, and Telligent

What traditional collaboration tools lack, however, is a way for workers to connect without formalities — which is a main way knowledge discovery and innovation happens. For this reason, vendors are rushing to surround consumer-style microblogging, social networking, and related capabilities with the security and management that IT and legal departments demand.

More specifically, the new wave of enterprise social products combines subscribing to feeds so that you can monitor the activities of others inside (and sometimes outside) your organization, comment on posts, and form groups to enable deeper collaboration. At the extreme, you’ll find groups transformed into formal communities, each with dedicated wikis, blogs, and file sharing functions.

But there’s still a catch: Many solutions provide only one solid feature (such as microblogging), while other capabilities seem like an afterthought. Because these functions aren’t integrated, you’re creating — not bridging — even more information islands within and without your organization.

With these goals and caveats in mind, I looked at the current state of social software and identified four solutions that encompass hosted or on-premise blogging, wiki, and community packages. These include CubeTree, Jive Social Business Software, Socialtext, and Telligent.

What follows is an intelligent review of all four solutions and a discussion of their pros and cons.  In summary, all four seem to cover the bases well:

If we had scoring categories for development speed and agility, CubeTree would earn 10 in both. This relative newcomer is pumping out updates almost weekly (I tested update 63), and each adds real functionality. The service was a joy to use, but some of the features aren’t as deep as their counterparts in other products. Still, with no cost for the basic version, you should pilot this product.

Stepping up, I was impressed with how far Socialtext has come from the early wiki days. The only product tested with both appliance and cloud deployment options, it’s an excellent choice for regulated industries.

At the next level, where you’re interested in connecting internal and external communities, there’s Telligent and Jive SBS. Both products are more complex to customize and deploy but have the advantage of strong analytics. Decision-makers can monitor conversations that potentially affect the business. Of the two, Telligent nudges slightly ahead because of better integration with other business systems.

A final note: Do the math. Per-month costs may at first seem reasonable. But for a large organization, you’re potentially looking at costs of a million dollars (or more) per year. On this measure alone, CubeTree’s basic offering and Socialtext’s microblogging option seem like bargains.

I wish that InfoWorld had seen fit to include either Lotus Connections 2.5 or LotusLive Engage in the comparison (and have left a comment to that effect), but at the same time, I also appreciated the opportunity to look at these four offerings afresh and see where they might fit.  Even if you are a Yellow-Bleeder through and through, if you have an interest in Social Collaboration I’d recommend that you take a look.

Link: InfoWorld – Enterprise social software spurs connections

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!