Enterprise Collaboration Technology Market Overview #KMWorld

KMWorld 2013Speaker: Tony Byrne, Founder, Real Story Group

[These are my notes from the KMWorld 2013 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]

Session Description: To date, technology analysts have quite properly focused on the social and business aspects of social collaboration technologies. And yet, social collaboration tools, including collaboration suites, pure-play blog/wiki/social-networking products, and revamped portal products from major vendors, differ quite substantially in maturity, approach, and support. This session shares customer research from a noted evaluation firm on leading enterprise collaboration technologies and provides a framework for customers to evaluate the marketplace based on their own needs.


  • What’s the difference between Collaboration and Networking?
    • Collaborate = working toward a common goal
      • Actions: Organize, do, formalize
    • Network = connect with others outside the context of a specific goal
      • Actions: Discover, connect, brainstorm
  • What’s the problem with these differences?
    • Vendors tend to focus on either collaboration or networking. Few do both well. This means you can, for example, brainstorm in a networking application, but then need to move to a collaboration application in order to actually implement that idea.
  • Features vs Applications
    • In Byrne’s view, having the right application is more important than having the right features
    • SharePoint is a good example:
      • From a feature perspective, it appears to be “more or less feature complete.” However, this is misleading since it doesn’t do everything equally well. (In fact, it doesn’t do most things well!)
      • From an application perspective, SharePoint is very poor. However, since SharePoint is a platform, “with enough time, money and ibuprofen, you can get it to do what you need.”
    • Real Story Subway Map:
      • this map shows how the various vendors and their collaboration/networking applications compare.
  • Three options for better Collaboration & Networking
    • Extend the application by writing your own code
      • this approach presents some real problems:
        • it can be expensive and time consuming
        • when the platform is upgraded by the vendor, you’ll have to find a way to upgrade the proprietary code
    • Supplement by buying something “above” the platform
      • finding third-party software products that fill in the gaps
      • this is a relatively safe and easy approach
    • Complement the platform by buying something that runs “next” to the platform
      • it has its own repositories
      • it needs to be integrated with the platform
  • Be very careful about the Enterprise Surprise
    • There are lots of applications from smaller vendors that are cool and work well in a simple pilot. However, when you go enterprise-wide, you get tripped up by problems with their common administrative and management services. For example, does the application have a UI that works internationally, across geographies, time zones, languages?
    • Access control and entitlements may be valid concerns within an organization
      • however, many social software systems have no real notion of entitlements: the goal is openness, information access is either totally open or there is a binary choice between private and public.
      • they often lack the ability to reflect the differing roles and responsibilities of users
  • Social  as a service rather than a place
    • many social applications sit outside the applications within which employees work all day. Therefore, to be social, they need to go to a place that is different from the place in which they work.
    • it is better if social is in the flow of work; if your employees live in an application, social should be there too.
    • if your employees “live in Outlook,” look for applications that provide a social “pane” in Outlook
    • some applications (e.g., Tibbr) can put a social/collaborative chrome or layer on top of an existing paltform
  • Mobile Matters
    • Some social software (e.g,  Chatter) works well on the desktop, but they don’t translate well into mobile
  • How to find the right technology?
    • Start with a longish list of possible products (10-12)
    • Winnow the list by comparing product offerings against each other and, more importantly, compare them in the context of key use cases in your organization.
    • Hold a competitive bake-off between the 2 products that survive your selection process. Install the applications in your sandbox so you can experience what it is like to use the technology and to work with the vendor.
      • This is important so that you can really experience how the technology handles your business needs and technical requirements.
      • It also corrects for any errors/gaps in your perception of what your colleagues actually want and how they will actually use the tool.

SharePoint 2010 as a Social and Collaboration Platform [#e2conf]

This session is presented by Tony Byrne (Real Stories) and Shawn Shell (Consejo Consulting).  You can find the session slides at http://www.e2conf.com/boston/2011/presentations/workshops.  Username: workshop; Password: boston2011.

[These are my notes from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference 2011 in Boston.  Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error.  Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Typical SharePoint myths:
    • it provides unique collaboration services
    • it is easy to use
    • it is low cost
    • it represents the latest and greatest
  • What is special about SharePoint?
    • close ties to the rest of the Microsoft Office suite
    • huge armies of  “Redmond Partners”
    • the breadth of services available via this platform
    • the implied development model is individual and departmental development rather than enterprise-wide development — the tool is more focused on features for users and for developers (to customize the environment), but less so for back-end administrators.
  • Strategy. Microsoft’s strategy behind SharePoint is that it is intended to help keep Microsoft Office relevant in an age of web services.
  • What services does SharePoint offer for collaboration? At first blush, it appears to be feature complete in that it claims to offer most social tools (except microblogging).  However, it isn’t really plug and play out of the box. While it is possible to provide basic blogs and wikis, you’ll need to purchase third-party services to deploy other fairly typical forms of social functionality.  Once you get beyond very basic project-based collaboration, then SharePoint is nothing more than a development platform.
  • “Communities” are a weak point in SharePoint. Communities in SP2010 are more virtual or implied.  This is why people are using third-party services like Newsgator to plug the gap in community management services and features.
  • Search. The out of the box search is decent,but it isn’t FAST.  Be careful, because most of the demos you see feature FAST. Third-party search engines layered on top of SharePoint don’t always function well.
  • Development Cycle. SP has a 3-year development cycle.  However, towards the end of each cycle, users tend to do a lot of bespoke work.  This leads to the need to do a lot of catch-up at the beginning of the next cycle.  This also presents a problem in the social business arena, where changes occur more frequently. To address this and similar concerns, Microsoft is providing more frequent service packs to release new features and bug features in the midst of a development cycle.
  • Don’t Talk About SharePoint. It’s like a blank slate.  Talk about the specific applications or solutions that you create with (or on top of) SharePoint. For example, deploying a tool to solve a business challenge (e.g., improve service quality) is a business solution worth talking about.  The fact that you were able to do it using the SharePoint platform is great, but chances are that SP by itself  was not the complete answer.  You probably needed something extra.  Therefore, talk about the business win — not the foundational tool.
  • MySites. Many people are scared to death of MySites.  One big problem is that MySites don’t scale to companies with hundreds of thousands of employees. MySite allows up to 50 thousand MySite collections per web application. If you have multiple applications, you can have a terrible mess.
  • FAST. It is not free. It isn’t necessary unless you have an enormous number of document (e.g., more than 50 million documents). If you have fewer documents, there are other, cheaper, less complicated third-party search tools that work better for you than FAST.