Friday, August 19, 2011

Enterprise Collaboration Vendors Have A Tough Sell Ahead

Enterprise social networking software tools claim that they will enable people get their work done with help from their professional network.

I use tools several collaboration tools such as Jive, Atlassian Confluence, and PBWorks. They are good tools to collaborate when a group of people already know the context and can bring the context of work into these tools. For example, my colleagues and I write our use cases in the Atlassian wiki, I collaborate with Android Enthusiasts in the Jive forum and wrote my book on the PB Works wiki.

Some vendors such as Atlassian are focused. They provide tools to solve one problem. Tools such as PBWorks try to solve problems for a specific set of audience.

Some other providers on the other hand claim that they are an enterprise collaboration solution. They claim that updates from ERP, CRM and other enterprise tools will show up in these tools and users can collaborate around those updates. I find this sort of explanation naive. I wonder if the product managers of these tools have any understanding of the purpose or architecture of any ERP or CRM system.

These tool vendors have a real hard job of finding out how they can provide value once the excitement of having a wiki a blog and a discussion forum wanes away. Some of them try to do a half baked job of project collaboration, document management, microblogging and social networking.  There is no reason why I will use a tool such as Jive or Social Text or Cubetree for document management. That is the last place I will go to maintain my professional network. It is definitely not the place for frequent twitter like updates.

So far these vendors have assembled a collection of tools without a clear idea about the problem they are planning to solve. This is  like a chef going shopping for ingredients without a recipe in mind. I suspect these vendors without a focus, who claim to be the enterprise collaboration solution, will go out of business one by one or become marginalized soon.

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