Social software suites

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On april the 14th I did a presentation for the Intelligent Organisation seminar of Sogeti. My title for the presentation was: “Does the perfect social platform exist?”. Which is a nice little question to answer, no?

To be able to answer this question, I had to focus on two aspects. First of all: what is a social platform? And second: how do we rate such a platform? To get to the first part; what’s a social platform? I decided to use Gartner for this. In their hypecycle of social software you can distinguish a couple of trends.

First of all, social platforms like wikis and blogs are all well excepted and are beginning to reach the plateau of productivity. Social software suites (which combine different aspects) are beginning to appear within organisations. It’s these suites which I was going to focus on. Gartner helped me even more by providing a “magic quadrant” for these suites.

Using this quadrant and my own free will, I decided to look into the following suites:

  • Jive Social Business Software
  • Microsoft SharePoint 2010
  • IBM Lotus Connections 2010
  • Elgg
  • Newsgator

Ok, now I have a selection of suites to compare. But what to compare them with? In accordance with the TeamPark methodology, I came up with a couple of aspects which can be used to “rate” a social computing suite. These are:

The suite provides wikis, blogs, microblogging and discussion (forum) capabilities. It also allows for social bookmarking, tagging and ratting. Mach-ups are a possibility and real-time communications (presence and instant messaging) are part of the mix as-well. And you can create your own social network (using profiles, search, networking and activity streams).

These elements allowed me to judge all the different suites. Of course, these suites were not picked at random – as I already discussed. Most of the platforms offer the functionality as described. Some in a more complete way then others. The differences lay mostly in other aspects. For example;

Microsoft SharePoint 2010 is a great collaboration, portal and social platform. But it’s much more then just a social suite. So please, don’t judge it on just the (new introduced) social capabilities. Jive is the most complete suite of the bunch. But it cannot run on a Windows Server platform. Elgg is the least complete suite, but it is the only open source suite which I covered.

So in the end: selecting a social suite is more then just selecting a technology platform. It needs to fit into your organisation and architecture. If you already have SharePoint – look no further: SharePoint 2010 is a great platform! If you’re not and want to invest in a solid platform, either look at Jive or IBM.

Some links for further reading:

Collaboration in the cloud

A couple of words on cloud-computing and social platforms. Most platforms I discussed have an alternative to on-premises installations. Jive offers a hosted environment, Microsoft offers the Business Productivity Online Suite and IBM LotusLive. You can read-up on these thing in the Sogeti/Microsoft book Collaboration in the Cloud.


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