Cool Vendors Collaboration Social Software


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Cool Vendors Collaboration Social Software

  1. 1. Research Publication Date: 4 April 2008 ID Number: G00155885 Cool Vendors in Collaboration and Social Software, 2008 Nikos Drakos, Carol Rozwell, David Mario Smith We profile five vendors with innovative approaches to collaboration support — scenario simulation for decision making; social network analysis, visualization and exploration; immersive 3-D virtual workspaces; video-based asynchronous conversations; and a highly configurable social software platform. Key Findings ! Collaboration support is a multi-faceted and fertile area for innovation; each of the products or services mentioned here embodies some fresh thinking that can add business value. ! DecisionPath can improve decision making with scenario simulation. ! Trampoline Systems helps to optimize information flow and expertise location using analysis and visualization. ! Qwaq boosts engagement with private immersive 3-D virtual workspaces, while HiveLive promotes business agility by encouraging end users to create their own collaboration environments. Recommendations ! Look beyond your strategic collaboration support platforms for opportunities to satisfy specific business needs with innovative new products. ! Match your business priorities and needs to the products described here, looking for places where the benefits outweigh the costs and the heightened vendor and market risk. © 2008 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartner's research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.
  2. 2. DISCLAIMER This research does not constitute an exhaustive list of vendors in any given technology area, but rather is designed to highlight interesting, new and innovative vendors, products and services. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW A necessary (but not always sufficient) condition for success in collaboration support is user acceptance. A collaboration tool is much more likely to be used if it is aligned with a business activity, in a way that is natural and intuitive without being obstructive. All vendors understand these principles, but the five we profile here have interpreted them in new and interesting ways. There is a common thread between all five in the way they tackle task alignment and user engagement by analyzing and using user interaction data, by supporting scenario modeling, through visualization and 3-D immersive environments, through multimedia publishing and streaming, and finally through extreme customization. Although it is too soon to say which will be rewarded with long-term market success, we can expect to see several of these approaches becoming part of successful collaboration support environments. ANALYSIS DecisionPath, Boston, Massachusetts, USA ( ) Analysis by Carol Rozwell Why Cool: When faced with change, companies need a dynamic decision-support system that lets them quot;test drivequot; change strategies. DecisionPath's product ForeTell allows users to incorporate situational and assumptive elements into model constructs (called scenarios) that can be used to develop and test the results of decisions. The simulation engine projects the likely outcome of prospective plans. Using analytics, the projected outcome and alternatives can be explored and compared. ForeTell is a software platform for decision support over which horizontal and vertical solutions are built depending on the clients' need. For example, in organizations struggling with change- management decisions, ForeTell would be overlaid by the Change, Adaptation, Learning Model (CALM) methodology, which is built on complex adaptive system principles. As well as helping companies uncover the unintended consequences of their plans before they adopt them, CALM can be used to monitor the way that strategies are executed. Scenarios are updated to reflect changing conditions in a quot;sense and respondquot; mode that validates existing plans or signals the need for adjustment. ForeTell has also been used in other domains such as counterterrorism and preparing for pandemics, competitive drug marketing strategies, IT portfolio management and dynamic social network analysis. Challenges: Foretell is a sophisticated tool for dealing with complex, strategic problems. The scenario-based simulation methodology (which forces organizations to work through numerous relevant factors, including uncomfortable but critical issues such as leadership change capacity and situational dynamics, which most people rarely think about explicitly) and the effort involved to analyze projected outcomes and refine strategies accordingly will be daunting to some prospective clients. The flexibility of the tool — the fact that it can be used to analyze so many different types of situation — means that DecisionPath must carry out precision marketing to find Publication Date: 4 April 2008/ID Number: G00155885 Page 2 of 6 © 2008 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved.
  3. 3. potential buyers who need dynamic analysis of strategic problems (rather than simpler operational or tactical problems). Who Should Care: Business intelligence professionals in companies experiencing significant change (such as mergers, volatile market conditions, changing regulations and technology adoption) will be intrigued by ForeTell's ability to support the decision-making process through the use of models that can be changed dynamically as circumstances change. The simulation engine uses a variety of behavioral simulation techniques that companies can use to practice, learning from virtual rather than actual mistakes as they determine how to deal with change. Trampoline Systems, London, U.K. ( ) Analysis by Carol Rozwell Why Cool: Stimulated by the interest in consumer social networking sites, enterprises are now looking for tools that will help them visualize how people in their organizations and quot;ecosystemsquot; interact. Trampoline Systems offers two products: Metascope creates visualizations and analyzes survey and e-mail data for organizational network analysis (ONA); Sonar Suite maps social networks, information flows and expertise. Sonar also includes a dashboard so users can see updates and activity in their networks. The tools are being used by corporate clients who want to have quot;something like Facebookquot; inside the company. A typical use of Sonar might be to search for people with specific expertise. The software analyzes documents, communication and other interaction artifacts to determine which people have the required expertise. Results are prioritized based on how close people are to the user. Results can be previewed to see what people are working on before the user decides to contact them. Trampoline is currently developing a feed (Really Simple Syndication [RSS] or direct) that informs users about changes. Challenges: Trampoline Systems' products face privacy and security challenges. Even though users can designate what information is shared and what is private, there is a knee-jerk fear of quot;Big Brotherquot; when networks and semantics are examined. There may also be legislative hurdles to surmount before the tools can be used. In Germany, for example, employees have to explicitly opt in before their data can be mined by their employer. Who Should Care: Trampoline Systems' products will interest professionals involved in innovation, knowledge management and learning, as well as business unit managers who need to understand the dynamics of the networks in their organizations. They will also be of interest to human resources (HR) professionals involved in ONA. Qwaq, Palo Alto, California, USA ( ) Analysis by Carol Rozwell and Nikos Drakos Why Cool: Qwaq Forums' tagline quot;virtual spaces for real workquot; nicely describes the functionality Qwaq offers. Even users with little experience of building 3-D environments can use Qwaq's templates for different kinds of spaces (such as office, campus, auditorium or project room) to create a virtual space for collaboration. Visitors can drag and drop a variety of different content types from their desktop to the virtual space. Using Qwaq Multi-Share, visitors in the same virtual space can edit content and see how others are modifying it. Visitors can speak to each other over a voice channel with spatial audio, or use chat to communicate. This can create a sense of physical proximity among users who are geographically distributed. For example, the real-life activities of a distributed sales, engineering or help desk team can be reflected in a virtual open- plan office that makes it possible to quot;seequot; the activities of others, quot;tap them on the shoulderquot; for advice or quot;walk over therequot; by the whiteboard to meet or collaborate on a document. Another innovation is the product's peer-to-peer architecture, which requires only a client and no Publication Date: 4 April 2008/ID Number: G00155885 Page 3 of 6 © 2008 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved.
  4. 4. centralized infrastructure except for routing. This makes deployment much simpler. Qwaq can be hosted behind a firewall, allaying the fears of corporate users concerned about their intellectual property being leaked. Challenges: Users will need time to create content, although Qwaq can import 3-D models from other tools. As more vendors of similar tools enter the marketplace, Qwaq will need to differentiate its offering and allow users to connect multiple forums across multiple customers. The peer-to-peer client is a blessing for team/room sizes of 40 to 50 people, but although many such teams can be supported, there may be performance issues with larger ones. Who Should Care: Qwaq will interest companies with a distributed workforce that needs to collaborate on a regular basis. The 3-D environment encourages richer interaction than is possible with conventional folder-based applications. Seesmic, San Francisco, California, USA ( ) Analysis by David Mario Smith Why Cool: This is essentially YouTube meets Twitter meets Web conferencing. It is currently a consumer service, although there are plans for business use. We include it here as an example of an innovative combination of existing technologies and modes of interaction (real-time audio/video quot;life streamsquot; plus conversations) that one day we will see in business environments too. The aggregation of social presence is an emerging trend among social networking sites, and Seesmic's concept allows the integration of social networks such as YouTube and Twitter, adding video interaction to the stream of information in a user's social profile. When a video is uploaded to Seesmic users can also opt to broadcast links on Twitter and YouTube. Integration with Facebook is also planned, as is syndication to other social networks and distribution platforms. Video conversations will eventually be streamed and grouped into community-based channels dedicated to various topics like politics, sports or technology. Other potential uses for enterprises could be leveraging the real-time connections to people and adding a video dimension. Colleagues in dispersed teams can use this feature to add personal interaction to ad hoc and formal business processes. There are also implications and potential uses for internal learning, recruitment and product demonstrations. Challenges: The current beta version lacks sophisticated privacy controls over what profile information, networks and contacts are shared with other users. More importantly, even though bandwidth is becoming less of an issue, video has much higher production and consumption costs, at least in terms of time and network resources. Fiddling with a camera takes much more time than posting a short reply. Equally, having to watch even a short unedited video with very few cues as to what is in it will be more frustrating than quot;skimmingquot; a text reply. Until we have easy tools to tag, skim and skip video segments, the appeal of quot;conversational videoquot; in a business environment will be limited. Who Should Care: Seesmic would interest product development teams that are dispersed, so they can share short video-based product demonstrations. The ability to supply feedback via video would also be valuable. HR and training managers can use the real-time video streams for internal training, recruitment and onboarding. HiveLive, Boulder, Colorado, USA ( ) Analysis by Nikos Drakos Why Cool: HiveLive is an enterprise social software suite with the usual functionality — blogs, forums, wikis, rich user profiles, tags, feeds, social networks and so on. It can be used to support employee or partner communities, but so far its focus has been customer communities, Publication Date: 4 April 2008/ID Number: G00155885 Page 4 of 6 © 2008 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved.
  5. 5. particularly for lead generation, loyalty, market intelligence and customer support. What makes the HiveLive Community Platform very interesting is its configurability. Most applications allow some degree of customization by administrators or end users — such as choosing from a predefined set of templates, placing different widgets on the screen, choosing how and when to be alerted and so on. HiveLive goes further, making it possible for an administrator — or even an end user with the right permission — to configure a community to support an activity that doesn't quite fit one of the traditional blogging, discussion or other capabilities. Also, a functioning community (for example, an innovation crowdsourcing community set up to generate, review, discuss and select new design ideas) can be quot;clonedquot; (duplicated), quot;re-skinnedquot; (given a different branding and user interface look-and-feel) and reconfigured, perhaps with a different set of components (such as ratings attachments and discussion feeds). Beyond that it is even possible from the same user interface to change the underlying data structures (by adding or removing fields to the user profiles, for example, or by creating new structured objects as necessary). This level of customization by non-technical users makes it easier to align the technology with real user needs on an ongoing basis as these needs change. It is also possible to quot;refactorquot; existing communities or cater to large numbers of collaboration support requirements without an IT bottleneck, because more of the deployment and customization can be done by those who will actually use the system. Challenges: First, it is not clear whether the operations that HiveLive exposes to users are enough when the requirements become more complex — such as when there is a need to model workflows or integrate with other systems. Second, taking advantage of such capabilities still requires a mix of competence and curiosity. Third, the undisciplined granting of permissions to make deep changes could lead to a proliferation of experimental environments that could be counter-productive. Fourth, this approach to development and deployment may not be readily appreciated by buyers, who tend to focus on functionality. Expanding users' role in shaping their computing environments is happening slowly as other vendors begin to offer similar deep access to end users — for example, Ning, Rollbase, Dabble DB, or agile Web application platforms such as IBM's Project Zero and BEA's Project Genesis. Who Should Care: Application managers planning to invest in a community and social interaction support platform should evaluate HiveLive among other alternatives according to the usual assessment criteria, but should also take into account the extra quot;agilityquot; that results from extreme configurability. This may be beneficial in situations where an initial deployment is likely to be followed by frequent changes and the need to support many slightly different versions. RECOMMENDED READING quot;Cool Vendors in the High-Performance Workplace, 2008quot; quot;Cool Vendors in Content Management, 2008quot; quot;Magic Quadrant for Team Collaboration and Social Software, 2007quot; Publication Date: 4 April 2008/ID Number: G00155885 Page 5 of 6 © 2008 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved.
  6. 6. REGIONAL HEADQUARTERS Corporate Headquarters 56 Top Gallant Road Stamford, CT 06902-7700 U.S.A. +1 203 964 0096 European Headquarters Tamesis The Glanty Egham Surrey, TW20 9AW UNITED KINGDOM +44 1784 431611 Asia/Pacific Headquarters Gartner Australasia Pty. Ltd. Level 9, 141 Walker Street North Sydney New South Wales 2060 AUSTRALIA +61 2 9459 4600 Japan Headquarters Gartner Japan Ltd. Aobadai Hills, 6F 7-7, Aobadai, 4-chome Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0042 JAPAN +81 3 3481 3670 Latin America Headquarters Gartner do Brazil Av. das Nações Unidas, 12551 9° andar—World Trade Center 04578-903—São Paulo SP BRAZIL +55 11 3443 1509 Publication Date: 4 April 2008/ID Number: G00155885 Page 6 of 6 © 2008 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved.