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Vendor Convergence in the Enterprise 2.0 Space

Posted by on June 25, 2010

One of the things that struck me the most at this years Enterprise 2.0 conference was that all of the vendors in the space are doing the EXACT same thing.  Last year at the E2.0 conference we saw a lot of product differentiation with companies focusing specifically around niche areas or features such as ideation, wikis, internal microblogging, workspaces, and document/file sharing.  This year every single vendor has shifted their focus onto building a full scale collaborative enterprise platform (whatever that means).  Walking around from booth to booth was a little bit like being in a state of Deja Vu as every vendor had an identical feature set and even the designs and interfaces were very similar.  It’s almost as though all these companies passed the code around to each other and made some minor tweaks.  I spoke with many of the vendors in the space asking them how differentiate themselves from one another and I didn’t receive any solid answers.

There were a few companies that continuously stick to their guns and focus on their key areas of expertise; I’m talking about companies such as Crowdcast which focuses on Social Business Intelligence ( Social BI) or harnessing employee networks to help make company decisions via predictive markets and Spigit which is focused around ideation and innovation.  Newsgator also has a unique play as their model is built on making Sharepoint better by building apps and features on top of it.  Aside from these companies there really wasn’t much differentiation at all.  As a prospective buyer of any of the E2.0 vendors that were on display I’d be confused out of my mind between what vendor A does and what vendor B does.  The reality is that most of the vendors that were present at E2.0 aren’t going to be around over the next few years either because they will either go bankrupt or perhaps get acquired.  If you’re a large organization such as Southwest Airlines or Met Life the logical choice for collaboration platforms are those offered by the big players in the space such as Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco .  Why?  Because you know that those companies are going to be around for a long long time and you don’t have to worry about purchasing something from a company that might not be in business a few years down the road.  Now, these might not be the best collaboration solutions for enterprise companies but that’s why there’s always the option of building and integrating which is what Booz Allen did with their Hello platform, and boy did they do an amazing job with that.  The only competitor to some of these big players is Jive which has apparently managed to break through the field and is currently looking to IPO now that it has reached (or is close to reaching) revenues of over $100 million (not publicly verified yet).

So where does this leave other players in the space?  Well one of the smarter companies in my opinion is Blue Kiwi which acknowledges that it is looking to penetrate the small and medium business market instead of going after the enterprise.  Sure, BK does have some enterprise clients but they realize that the smaller businesses are dramatically underserved and there is a big market out there for them.  I think instead of focusing on feature sets we’re going to start to see market differentiation amongst vendors perhaps based on business size or vertical, i.e. a collaboration platform specifically for financial services firms or pharma companies.  The small vendors also might have a place within teams or departments within large organizations that just splinter out and go do their own thing (many large orgs have teams deploying some of the smaller solutions).  I find it very hard to believe that this trend of increasing E2.0 vendors in the space can continue.  The next E2.0 conference is going to take place in Santa Clara in November so it will be very interesting to see what happens then.

I think the E2.0 market is a very fun and interesting space both from the client and vendor side.

What do you think about what vendors are doing in the E2.0 space?

  • I agree there will be convergence in the space Jacob, and also a real rationalization. My pick is that there will be two distinct classes of social for the enterprise:

    1) The stand alone offerings (a la Yammer) that will have some adoption but limited in breadth and true “at the coal face” use
    2) The integral apps (Chatter, CubeTree etc etc) that are an integral part of the apps within which they're built (or bolted)

    Long term I believe the latter is the approach that will win…

    • Hi Ben,

      The stand alone offerings are probably going to just get integrated with other larger solutions (or at least have that option). I agree with you on who will win 🙂

  • Hey, don't forget about us (PBworks)! We focus on a specific vertical (professional services firms) and a specific use case (managing client relationships and projects).

    But I totally agree that vendors, especially smaller ones, need to focus.

    • Ya exactly you guys are in a particular vertical which is great, doesn't work out that well for most other vendors that are all drifting in the same space 🙂

  • Reyn

    IBM delivers Social Analytics with Lotus Connections with Atlas and in Q3 expect to see more.
    We are doing a lot of research and we are running SA within IBM….

  • Anne

    I’m a consultant working with Palo Alto Networks, a network security company that helps enterprises manage social networking apps on the corporate network. IT departments are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They know that end-users and the business units will revolt if these apps are outright blocked. At the same time, they know these apps carry risks and can’t leave them unchecked. It requires a good balance between enablement and security. There is a good whitepaper on the subject of blocking social networking apps, “To Block or Not. Is that the question?”

    • Hi Anne,

      Thanks for the link to the doc I will check it out. I think in the near future E2.0 will become much more widely adopted and there will be no “stuck” for most orgs. For now it's just testing out the waters but that will be done soon enough.