What’s the future for the ESN market?

This week news broke that leading enterprise social network Jive is searching for a buyer. It follows in the footsteps of Yammer and Socialcast in moving from successful enterprise social startup to acquisition by technology giants in just a few short years.

It’s thought that Oracle and SAP have decided against acquiring Jive. Some analysts suggest the most likely buyer is Salesforce; while they have their own Chatter product, Jive could bring enhanced functionality and a sizable user base.

We at Intranetizen are left wondering what this all means for enterprise social. Will it create greater choice and flexibility, or force organisations to put all their intranet eggs in one vendor basket?

In the 18 months since we published our Vendor Reviews series, the landscape for enterprise social has already changed enormously, most notably with Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer.

Yet almost two years after that buy-out, Yammer still isn’t integrated with Sharepoint. While we can see the benefits for Microsoft, these are less clear for Yammer customers and users, as the convergence path is still yet to emerge and the company has begun to lose its edge as an ESN innovator.

This leads us to question whether the same fate awaits Jive. Will the essence of Jive disappear following a buy-out? Or will its fortunes be revived through a partnership with a firm like Salesforce, with its enviable client list?

As traditional intranet ECM platforms have added social features and the number of start-ups grown, the product landscape has become crowded, with little to differentiate between platforms besides their sales hype.

The past two years have seen increasing numbers of acquisitions, but the ESN marketplace is, we feel, ripe for further consolidation, as strong players get bought out and smaller ones exit the market. This has some huge potential benefits for existing customers – boosting product features and strengthening the product roadmap – but at the loss of the agility that comes with working with a smaller player.

We strongly feel social features work best when they’re part of the flow of everyday work and fully integrated into the an intranet, rather than an add-0n. So in that respect, consolidation could be good news, bringing the strong functionality from social-first applications like Jive together with the mature content management capability of older intranet solutions. This could allow social capability to integrate more widely into other business systems and processes, delivering real business benefits.

The more negative vision is of innovative companies like Jive suffering the same fate as GroupSwim, becoming an also-ran feature in a giant application suite. This could de-prioritise social in the minds of many buyers.

What do you think lies ahead for the enterprise social collaboration market? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. Jane McConnell

    Great minds may not think alike but we do think about the same things! I just caught a link to this post a few minutes after publishing my own interpretation of the enterprise social software market. My opinions are totally non technical since I’m not a technologist and don’t know products well at all.
    I based my analysis on data showing differences between Early Adopters and the Majority and where’s they’re at in social collaboration. I think vendors today are caught in the gap between Early Adopters who are no longer buying but concentrating on bringing change in ways of working and the Majority who are on standby.
    Totally agree when you say “We strongly feel social features work best when they’re part of the flow of everyday work and fully integrated into the an intranet, rather than an add-0n”.
    Have you seen Carrie Basham Young’s article “Just say No” on CMS Wire? http://www.cmswire.com/cms/social-business/just-say-no-to-native-social-features-024247.php
    Would love to know your thoughts on my own analysis which comes at this from a different angle: http://www.netjmc.com/business-value/decrease-of-interest-in-enterprise-social-software-signals-a-shift-from-tool-to-behavior/

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