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

SocialText closes new funding

From Mike Stackpoole at Ferris Research:

On March 31, 2009, collaboration vendor Socialtext closed a new equity fund-raising of $4.5M.

Products, Facilities, and Competitors:

    * Socialtext provides hosted and appliance-based wikis, integrated weblogs, and social networking for workplace communities.
    * The company is especially recognized for pioneering the enterprise wiki technology.
    * The company has around 5,000 customers.
    * Customers include BASF, Boston College, CondeNet, Epitaph Records, IKEA, Intel, MicroStrategy, MWW Group, Nokia, SAP, SunGard, and Symantec.
    * Socialtext is based in Palo Alto, Calif., and also has offices in New York and London.
    * Main competitors are Jive and Atlassian.

Trading Performance:

    * The business was founded in 2002, and has 40 employees.
    * Socialtext revenues are estimated by Ferris Research at $6M-$8M.
    * The company has yet to reach profitability, but it expects to achieve this without further funding.

Funding History: Socialtext has had four funding rounds, with total money raised of $17.5M.

    * 6/2004. $450K from angels and Omidyar Network.
    * 4/2005. $3.1M. First institutional round: Draper Fisher Jurvetson, SAP Ventures, Utah University Venture Fund.
    * 11/2007. $9.5M. Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Omidyar Network, SAP Ventures, Utah University Venture Fund.
    * 03/2009. $4.5M. Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Omidyar Network, Utah University Venture Fund.

This latest funding will be used predominantly for further product development and marketing. The company believes this funding will be sufficient to take it to the cash-flow-positive stage.

Fund-Raising Process. CEO Eugene Lee describes this as:

    * Socialtext V3–a new, expanded offering–appeared to be a good basis for a new round.
    * In May 2008, once a solid demo was in place, fund-raising commenced among the traditional West Coast VC community.
    * V3 shipped in September/October 2008.
    * The launch was coincident with first major stock crash, and much venture spending was suspended.
    * By the end of October, it was clear VC funding would not be forthcoming.
    * Thus Socialtext had to go to its internal investors.
    * Terms agreed in January 2009; closed in February.


Socialtext webinar: Twitterprise Use Cases & Case Studies

Socialtext are doing some great work right now, including the incorporation of “Twitter-like” micro-blogging and status updates into their Social Software offerings.  

The latest in their three-part Twitterprise webinar series covers how their microsharing technology can help your organisation:

SocialtextTwitterprise: A Social Messaging Seminar Series
Webinar 2: Twitterprise Use Cases & Case Studies
April 23, 9am PDT

If you’re wondering whether talk of “Twitter in the enterprise” is an overblown fad or an opportunity you need to understand now, this webinar is for you.

When you need to collaborate and bolster cross-department information sharing, legacy communications solutions fall short. Join this free webinar to discover how “Twitter-like” tools in the enterprise can unlock new and powerful ways to work. You’ll see a demonstration of the powerful social messaging solution from Socialtext.

Join this free webinar to get specifics on how companies are using social messaging and the value it creates for them. We’ll explore general use cases of social messaging technology, and a Socialtext customer will present how they are using Socialtext’s microsharing technology, Socialtext Signals.

As a SocialText partner, I’m excited to see how the Socialtext Signals product is being used by customers and recommend this webinar to you.