Is "Social Enterprise Software" An Oxymoron?

I’ve been thinking about this since I saw the news on Monday morning that Jeff Dachis, one of the more successful NYC entrepreneurs in the first Internet wave, has partnered with Austin Ventures to "create an industry leading strategic consulting practice and an enterprise class Social Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) suite."

Jeff is a talented entrepreneur who has been working on the web for longer than most so it’s a challenge he is certainly up to. But I still wonder if enterprise software can really be "social". It’s something we have struggled with since we started creating our investment thesis for Union Square Ventures in 2003.

The term "social software" certainly means very different things to different people. I like the way Wikipedia defines it:

Social software is normally defined as a range of web-based software programs. The
programs allow users to interact and share data with other users. This computer-mediated communication has become very popular with social sites like MySpace and Facebook, media sites like Flickr and YouTube, and commercial sites like Amazon and eBay.
Many of these programs share characteristics like open APIs, service
oriented (customizable), and the ability to upload (data, media).

Six web services are mentioned in that paragraph and none of them are enterprise oriented services. That, in and of itself, doesn’t mean much. But when you think of terms like "open APIs", "customizable", and "upload data/media", the enterprise with its need for security and control doesn’t really come to mind.

Certainly there have been some social software successes in the enterprise. Wikis come to mind. We use a wiki from Jot (now Google) to run our business. Other wiki providers like PBWiki and Socialtext have also been successful. And one can make the argument that is at its heart social software.

And then there are the examples of consumer facing social web apps like delicious, linkedin, AIM, and skype that have been brought into the enterprise because they just simply get the job done better than many enterprise class applications.

But to me, the heart of social software is the community of users that forms around the software/service. The community provides much of, if not all of, the value of social software. What would twitter or facebook be without users? Nothing. Same with blogger, flickr, friendfeed, etc, etc.

And most enterprises don’t want their employees to be active members of a community that it can’t control, monitor, and moderate. So the software that tends to be adopted by the enterprise is usually hobbled by the needs of the enterprise and cannot get that magical lift that an unbounded community provides.

So I will be watching what Jeff builds with interest. He’s always been at the cutting edge and I hope he will push the envelope in thinking about how the enterprise can successfully adopt social software. Because in my mind, the world of enterprise software has been awfully anti-social to date.

UPDATE: Here are some "related links" I found after posting this earlier this morning:

Where The F**ck Is The Enterprise 2.0 Market?

The Problem With Enterprise 2.0

Incrementalism and The New New Thing

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Andy Gadiel

    When I first read this I initial thought the rise of social software in the Enterprise will be fueled by the acknowledgment that “Social Networking” is really a set of features, not necessarily a business in and of itself. Most of these features are centered around ‘Communication’ between members, and are essentially fueled by usage of the system itself. The more someone puts into it, the more they get out of it. – which is why these services are typically addictive to use.I could see a company coming along which enables Communication within an organization, with Ning-like features for intranets. I know in our business of 19 people, keeping everyone in tune with what each other are doing is a critical part of keeping things working fluidly. While we’ve created our own internal task management system for managing deals and clients, have our own internal email list and have even created our own JamBase Group to eat our own dogfood. I wouldn’t really consider any of these ‘social services’This is kind of where Google Apps is going with Jot Pages and Google Docs sharing, but they haven’t quite taken it to the next level of creating Profiles and exposing features which are specifically designed around the kinds of direct social services we’ve becoming accustomed.Of course, the other more likely side of it is in providing Social Software to Enterprises wanting to expose those features to their communities, enabling them to create profiles, communicate with each other, and share stuff.I hope it’s the first, internal, example. If we could actually hardness the power of these tools to make communication within an organization easier, we just might be onto something…

  2. loupaglia

    There are always a few issues facing the success of social software and new types of software in the enterprise. One is really obvious. The software takes hold in the consumer world first and gains adoption. At that point, will people in the enterprise move their data into the enterprise environments’ solution? Data Portability could help here. But right now, often the answer is “no”. Why would you move from an environment where you can potentially “network” with the entire world (including your company) to just inside your company.It all falls back to that inherent conflict of security of use and information with the emergent web of openness and trust. I think Wikis have gained adoption because it is used as an INTERNAL collaboration and documentation system for internally-bound projects., same thing, internally bound sales process information.I’ll close with an example, Dow Jones took the time to build a profile, Facebook style app. I never found myself even put my information up there and continually asked the question, “can this just link to my LinkedIn profile? why do I can have to update something that only a subset of people are going to see?” This type of dilemma faces every pro-sumer in the enterprise for almost every type of enterprise application.

  3. Mat Atkinson

    FredI think that the fundamental difference between social applications and enterprise application is that social applications are, at their core, about self expression, whereas enterprise applications are about process automation.Enterprise applications may borrow elements of social apps to facilitate collaboration (still a big enterprise opportunity) and ease of use (always a winner), but fundamentally self-expression is not a goal for the enterprise.

  4. Jevon

    I wrote this post a while ago:…I was, in a slightly more belligerent way, saying the same thing. There has to be a value to using these tools and it really seems like more of the “Enterprise Social Software” vendors think the best thing to do is just to slap on whatever things are working in the wild and expect them to have some sort of impact inside an organization. It seems that every time, things get hijacked by the needs of the org, and what the person wants gets cut out. The entire point though is that the person is in control and feels comfortable contributing… If you take that control away, then you lose all the value.There seems to be a disconnect between the needs of a large org and the needs of a person,. and the entire reason that social tools have been successful is that they fulfill the needs of the user, and nobody else. All sorts of stuff comes from that,. but that is the start.

  5. thirkej

    Maybe you’re being too harsh on the “enterprise”? Is it really all about control? What about the creativity of a 3M (or even a Google)? In a firm of 80,000+ though it is hard for anyone to keep track of what’s going on, what’s hot, what’s working. I’m sure that initiatives that might be worth following up die simply because the creators can’t find the right constituency within the firm. A “Social networking” approach might help them to build internal buzz, and to connect with people who can take an idea and run with it.Sitting in a branding / employee comms role, I’d love to have an internal facebook.Jestyn

    1. alive88

      Certainly internal LDAP for universal authentication and a directory of staff (profiles) is useful.ACTIVITY streams tailored to an individual built from enterprise sources, organizational, functional and relationships is killer.I have personally never separated instant messaging and email from social networking – in fact I think these applications are starving for graph integration. Self building IM lists and INBOX management based on social relationships and org charts sounds exciting to me. browsing an organization by org chart, and functional support lines (and relationships) are also very useful.shared learning streams, and peer generated, just in time knowledge is another killer enterprise application.internal blogging. internal open source. mentoring. recognition.tagging, bookmarking, digg, answersmashups. internal web services.I think it is all exciting. especially in an Enterprise setting. maybe you need to a large company, but how large?

  6. Andrju

    I think Jeff Dachis with this SaaS initiative are going to take unified communications to a whole new level and get it to where it suppose to be, social. Companies like Cisco and Microsoft, who are putting a lot of effort into UC at the moment, are going to be left in the dust and never new what hit them 🙂

  7. Tom Hughes

    Collaboration is the big opportunity, and is probably underserved by today’s crop of applications. They tend to be task-focused (“let’s create this document together”) and not context-focused (“let’s figure out how to help this customer together.”) Max Atkinson’s comment that “self-expression is not a goal for the enterprise” is true, but too reductive. I would say “self-expression — for its own sake — is not a goal for the enterprise.” A modern knowledge-based enterprise is largely based around a community of experts, and discovering what those experts are up to, and what they are experts in, is a central problem of the enterprise. Encouraging self-expression, in a business context, is part of that discovery process.Current-generation top-down management tools, where one person (the one configuring the tool) understands the whole framework, are not up to the task. They are predicated on the notion that “you just wait there until we tell you what to do.” Knowledge workers aren’t productive in that environment, they’ll start by figuring out “what to do” themselves; what they need are tools of coordination and knowledge-sharing.For example, when I use LinkedIn, I am acutely aware that whatever I put in there is quasi-public. My employer would not want me disclosing what I’m really doing, so I don’t (except where the activity is inherently public, like recruitment). In an enterprise version of LinkedIn (if it existed), where I delegated someone else in my organization (or a vendor) to manage access to the tool (as happens with email and our network), I could be much more upfront in my disclosures, and my colleagues and I would benefit . This doesn’t mean we have to install our own copy of LinkedIn on our own servers: it could still be delivered as S-a-a-S, as long as the demarcations between quasi-public and my-team-only were bright and clear. Incidentally, what’s important about the delegation is not that I have great control but that the provider give me good “cover.” I don’t really know if our email is secure, but I do know that our contract calls for it to be secure, and I know that there are penalties if that promise isn’t kept. That’s actually better than “control,” because it means I don’t need to worry about it. Contrast that with a service like BaseCamp, which is terrific, but where I can’t delegate control or know that control is managed in synchrony with other enterprise services. So, I have to “worry about it,” and that’s a limiting factor.

  8. stone

    It’s also fair to point out that Mr. Dachis eventually sold his company for $8.2M and was not the favorite of his former employees. His bio seems to ‘skip’ this absolute fact. I’m not sure if this is relevant but his last venture was mixed at best.

    1. fredwilson

      He was whipsawed like most of us by the burst of the bubble. I am glad to see jeff back in the saddle in a big way. I think he’s got game

  9. Lee Bryant

    Thanks for a thoughtful post, as usual.We have built a successful enterprise social computing consultancy (30+ people, good margins) over the past 5 years with no investment and no sales and marketing, so for us the evidence points to huge needs and untapped demand inside large companies for a new way of working with IT, collaborative tools and communities – and I am talking about top 10 law firms, top 5 consultancies and FTSE-100 companies. We will probably have to productise to scale and meet demand, but we are thinking about high value, short-run products like appliances and virtual server builds.The market for software has recently been estimated at just under $5bn, but the market for value-added services, mixed internal-external-Saas plays and various other things is probably just as big. And this does not even begin to take into account the cost savings and new sources of value that enterprise social computing may bring. As you may know, the fact that large companies function at all, given the sheer backwardness and intransigence of their IT departments, is a miracle. Now imagine IT becomes a force multiplier, not a barrier. That would mean we could finally start realising the mythical productivity gains that enterprise IT has always promised, but not yet delivered.Taking the best ideas and tools that have survived the cambrian explosion in the consumer space, and then making them work for a purpose inside the enterprise, is a necessary first step. But then, if we are lucky, we may learn new lessons and invent new ways of doing things inside the more tightly bounded communities of the workplace. In fact, the tools you mention above are not really ‘communities’ but places where people hang out and keep in touch with their own communities. Twitter, Facebook and other tools can be hugely valuable in more intimate networks and real communities that exist within companies and other networks-with-a-purpose.Some people in enterprises may indeed not want people to form communities or to behave in a ‘social’ way, but that is our challenge. Reducing the internal bureaucracy, transaction and co-ordination costs of business is a no-brainer, and so far our experience suggests that when companies see the results, they become less dogmatic about terms like ‘social’ and ‘community’. If large companies are to have a future, and attracting and retaining talent is part of that, then they know they have to change and reflect changes in society at large. I think they are slowly starting to do so.When 90%+ of the eyeball/advertising-based business models of today’s Web 2.0 companies fail, or when there are no more clueless brands that want to buy them at bubblicious valuations, then I think people will once again place a premium on real business and real change. I love my Web 2.0 tools and I think they have transformed our world, but if you want real revenues and real businesses, then the enterprise social computing market is where you will find them.

  10. Howard Greenstein

    Fred,I get calls regularly from enterprises trying to figure out how to incorporate wikis, blogs, social networks and the features you mention into their projects for corporate communications, HR, and even sales. There are companies that know they need to change and let employees do more of what they’re doing outside the firewall.I spoke to a group of corporate comms heads, and asked them if employees can read blogs, facebook, and other places that customers might give them feedback. “No, most of that is blocked” they said. Then I asked if employees are allowed to have their own blackberries or iPhones. Sure. Well, then they’re not blocked at all. They’re just on smaller screens.The interesting thing will be whether Jeff, will have an Organizational Change practice along with their software consulting. Some companies need to embrace change and new rules along with implementing new systems. It will be interesting to see.

  11. Josh P.

    Fred, I think you overstate the position of enterprises when you say “And most enterprises don’t want their employees to be active members of a community that it can’t control, monitor, and moderate.”I think its at the heart of your skepticism. The forward thinking enterprise has to make an effort to incorporate better ways of collaborating, otherwise they risk being left behind by other innovators.

  12. gregory

    the question is, can business models constructed in times of opacity and proprietary information and hierarchical organization survive the transparency and shared information and horizontal organization that enterprise social networking will result ini think the isolated business organization will give way to the community just because it is not as powerful, but will fight it, unsuccessfullyopen trumps closed, good trumps evil, the omni-present trumps isolated….. sooner or later

  13. Jeff Dachis

    Thanks Fred, your insights and thoughts are always appreciated.You certainly point out at least one way to view the now often and over used term “social”. The way I’ve been looking at the problem is that companies are going to want to engage its constituents in an active and transparent dialog in the same way those constituents engage with each other in that active and transparent dialog on Myspace, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube. The TOOLS may be different or take different shapes, but the resulting levels engagement in active dialog are what we are after.You are very right about enterprise needs surrounding security, filtering, and moderation, but I’m not sure that is exactly a problem for the companies or corporate constituents who want to begin to engage each other in active dialog. There are many active engagement touch points to be enabled, that would not squelch a participants constructive opinion, and would provide for the opportunity for people without a voice, to have one.You are also very right about the enterprise to date being “awfully anti-social.” Therein lies the opportunity.It would seem as though with the “digital born” consumer, employee, vendor, community member and shareholders we have in the consumer marketplace today, that have so readily adopted open, transparent, dialog fostering communication tools with a rapid zeal and zest (Twitter, blogging, Facebook, et al), will be demanding the same types of tools to engage in the places they work, the companies they work with, and the companies in their community.The resulting engagement levels, if even a portion of the ones we see for the new “social” services mentioned above should create a more involved, engaged corporate constituent, which if applied toward certain goals like efficiency, ideation, customer service, or knowledge management (to name a few) will yield enormous, measurable returns for the enterprises that choose to engage in that dialog.I look forward to continuing this discussion!

    1. fredwilson

      I love it when a post turns into a conversation and the inspiration for the post comes by and joins in. The is social software in action!!!!

    2. markslater

      i believe that even an association with ‘social software’ is misleading. Lets take a simple example in the enterprise.One of the more ‘social’ functions within the enterprise is the concept of action items. These typically require assignment, deadline, commenting, meetings, additional resource acquisition and so on. They also require cross organizational transparency, they also require dynamic data sharing (calendar inserting, alerts) and all manner of social or collaborative (i tend to lend the definition towards an undefined terms that sits at the apex of both) tools. You could even see a twittering type application being integrated in to this.There is not a single company out there today that does this well. I know. I just went through a review of over 25 of them – including office live which is positively awful – the company ended up choosing none. We got very close on netsuite, salesforce, 37 signals, but the problem was that the taxonomy that the company needed was not replicated in a suitable way by any one piece of software.And no small business (the largest green field market by far for social software) wants an install, or frankly an extensive customization cycle.If you subscribe to the notion that success in this context is found through improved efficiencies, then i would argue that the winner will require the enterprise to change its behavior. This is an extremely challenging proposition. If you cant map random taxonomy in a time compressed state, then you have to create a new way of doing an existing process better. in this arena gets closest imo.

    3. Dick Costolo

      I think this is a big idea, and a huge opportunity. Jeff will be able to provide lots of leveraged services around the consulting operation. Time and again we see corporations attempt to come to grips with the appropriate ways in which to interact with customers in the new world, and time and again, we see very expensive tests and trials that result in poor follow-up, sup par interaction, and poor measurability. Big idea here.

    4. Michael Beckner

      Frankly, I’m astonished it took this long! I remember working on a C-level dashboard project in the late 90’s for a media giant. And the only thing missing? The componentized / microchunked nature of Web 2.0. With things like Ning to create company collaboration etc. that dashboard becomes a home for some pretty interesting metadata apps that bubble-up workforce usage data from the networks “below” it.Either way, interesting to see how this takes shape.Jeff, good luck! And welcome back!

  14. Bob Cramer

    As an active player in the social media platform space, one challenge with a SaaS model for the enterprise (that is ThePort model) is the firewall issue. Are corporations going to demand that they host an enterprise solution or are they willing to let valuable information sit outside? SalesForce has certainly proved successful in overcoming this issue, and if company like ThePort and others can create a secure, closed SaaS community for internal collaboration, training and communications, the intranet market could be quite interesting.

  15. shareme

    That is why the friends control features on sits like facebook are getting play..and the complimentary trend along with that is the increase companies coming out with enterprise facebook apps that share sap data and etc via the facebook platform..I am not saying that there are not obstacles had that other people have already pointed out. I think part of it may be using video media such as seesmic and others to build a transparent conversation with enterprise users and customers so that that transparency translates into enterprise customers feelign that their concerns about security and etc are in fact held in high esteem and concern.

  16. jccodez

    social as in: I need these 10 people to work on this set of projects (for the next 3 months). I don’t want to worry about active directory, access ect… They are spread around the globe and they use a variety of communication tools, email, skype ect… I need built in versioning of the changes to the native files, I need updates on the progress, and I need to see and have access to the core project files as well. I don’t want a walled garden that re-invents word, excel, powerpoint, we use the native host applications for editing these file types…I don’t want to re-invent the wheel, I want to leverage my existing investments on the desktop, not add a walled garden.These are the challenges I seem to be facing, the fluff of social vs. the core of technical enterprise issues.

    1. alive88

      and how do you manage these challenges now?VPN, common tools for communication (or protocols/standards), Cloud storage (with revision control)intranet based application for tracking progress. – or what more do you need?

  17. vruz

    The more I think about it the more I like it.That being said, I think all future social ‘environments’ have to become more like Facebook and less like Skype, that is…. not just the social graph, but also the long tail of third party applications around it. Think the Java or .NET third party developers, that’s absolutely necessary, and Salesforce is getting it right.Isn’t this exactly what Google Apps and their partnership with Salesforce is doing ?I think there’s ways to satisfy certain corporate needs by embodying them in SDKs, not just APIs.I can see it happening, like gunpowder fire.Way to go, Jeff 🙂

  18. awilensky

    Small and mid local business need better solutions than a mere ‘web page’, that just sits there and is that is driven exclusively by search and SEO.SEO is the biggest scam for the small biz person; recurring fees for one time edits! There must be a way to weave together the social media presence artifacts for a small business to not only expose it’s business specialty and value, but to create a live channel for local marketing – even non-local, hmmm.I have been groping forward with this strategy by tying together some locals: Facebook, Twitter accounts, Friend feed, more….into a landing page with Ustream, a blog, etc.I don’t know where we are going…but I think, I intuit, that there is something better here than a web site for small, specialist, business.

  19. smartone2

    This is actually a great idea — it is called Basecamp

    1. awilensky

      You dont mean 37s basecamp? What does that have to do with anything? That’s a PM solution! I’m talking public facing. you are way off.

  20. kellan

    Social software for within the enterprise is low hanging fruit (from the technical perspective). Communication is usually so difficult and fraught within large corporations that improving it is almost trivially easy. And you’ve successfully side stepped the hardest problems of social software on the wider web; identity, investment, community norms all largely come for free. And you get to radically partition your data ala early Facebook! Which makes the scaling challenges of social software disappear.IBM has done a ton of work in this field with their desktop wikis, and dogear, and company profiles but the most interesting example I’ve seen is Tagsona.Tagsona is an internal software project at Yahoo started by Cameron Marlow. It was very much an experiment in what a social networking site (ala Facebook/Linkedin/Friendster) could be if the rules and community norms were enforced by a work relationship rather then the software. Permissions tend to be open, and public (at least within the corporate firewall). Not only does this make the software *much* simpler to write, but it worked better.Somehow I doubt though that anyone marketing “enterprise class social software as service” is realizing the power of a less is more when a community already exists (which is what a work place is, even if its dysfunctional).

  21. mccv

    It’s funny, your recent post on twitter bots (lotd) got me thinking about twitter in the entrerprise. We have 160 people working on projects that eventually need to integrate into a customer facing product. Just keeping tabs on who is doing what is painful. Outside our immediate group we have another 30k employees. Most of them may as well be working at another company from an information sharing perspective.We have blogs, forums and Wikis (we actually ave Jive’s ClearSpace deployed), but I think an internal Twitter + Tweetscan would be extremely useful.

    1. tweetip

      our app is attempting to address group pods using twitter/rss – do you have a macintel sitting around somewhere for a demo?

      1. mccv

        I do, but to be clear, I don’t think using twitter as it exists today is viable in an enterprise setting. Being internally transparent is perceived as good. Using a twitter-like solution outside the firewall would be shot down immediately… Hence the market for social enterprise software.

        1. tweetip

          mccv, thanks for the clarification – our app doesn’t care where the twitter infrastructure is located. We feel twitter will offer up their tech foundation, so you don’t have to build one from scratch. We don’t know when – but we also see the conversation for “inside the firewall” ramping up.

  22. Sam Huleatt

    I wrote a post on this topic recently. The issue IMO is that the phrase Enterprise 2.0 is not the best one to represent the next generation of enterprise software. Work culture is fundamentally changing. As a result of these changes, the next wave of software innovations cannot simply be ‘additions’ to already existing architectures. Maybe this would be fine if we were in a maturing industry; but we are not. The next enterprise software innovations must utilize new architectures that are specifically designed to address our new era….http://www.leveragingideas….

  23. Raj

    Maybe there’s an enterprise opportunity surrounding aggregating user behavior. An enterprise activity stream for AP/AR department, for instance, could be beneficial on multiple levels. Think FriendFeed for AP/AR applications.Ex.Beth put a credit hold on ABC Corp.Julie just processed an invoice for XYZ Co.Dan and Mike updated 3 company profiles today.

  24. Arin Sarkissian

    we walked the social/enterprise line back when I was working at Spoke Software. It was pretty painful.We had a public site but also sold private instances to big companies for big-ish $ … at least we tried to ;-). The network on the private instances was never big enough to catch up to the potential value you could have garnered from the publicly accessible instance.- Arin

    1. fredwilson

      Visible path, which I was a small angel investor in, also comes to mind as apainful examplefred

  25. RacerRick

    Publishers are really the only “Enterprise” customer base out there for web 2.0 software. Media, newspapers, tv, video etc.Other industries haven’t figured out a way to apply it to their industries, yet.Customer service could be aided by some sort of social networking. That’s an obvious market and I’m sure there are others, and it might take some time.(My apologies for the “web 2.0” reference.)

  26. dsheise

    Social Enterprise Software is not an oxymoron, it´s just the wrong way to address the problem. The problem (for the enterprise) is that individuals now own much more stuff (information, relationships, credibility). From a corporate executive´s point of view it´s like trying to hold water with your bare hands, it will slip through your fingers. Enterprises are just a bunch of people trying to work together. If people are getting used to collaborate on the web they will use these habits to get their jobs done.The enterprise should not want to replicate social tools inside the firewall because the enterprise is not the owner of individual´s relationships. It´s how people are getting things done that is changing. The enterprise must adapt management practices, not software. Come in the consultants..Adoption of these tools inside the enterprise might be very clumsy when led by corporate IT departments with a “defend my job agenda” but can be smooth if led by people who actually know how to deal with these tools. I believe there is a huge market for consultants to help companies to figure out what and when to adopt (how to let people use) different new tools. Great conversation and excellent subject!

  27. Aruni S. Gunasegaram

    I saw that news yesterday as well. It will be an interesting play for Austin in general. We have another company in town, Small World Labs, who I believe plays into this ‘social enterprise market.’ They bootstrapped to good revenue before taking on their first outside capital only recently. It will be interesting to see from a local perspective if this will bring more talent and understanding of Web 2.0 and social networking into Austin. I hope so!

  28. Dennis D. McDonald

    The term “social” by itself is a problem since it implies external and non-work types of relationships, even though many “social” applications are primarily professional- or task-oriented in ways that are very supportive of enterprise interests. For a list of “social” applications that are relevant to large organizations, see this page on my blog, which is based on a presentation I give to large consulting organizations and government agencies:…Dennis D. McDonaldAlexandria, Virginia

  29. Joe Latone

    This gets to a related comment I’ve been leaving on various blogs: There may be a great oppt’y if the social software platforms (facebook, twitter, etc) could be lifted and run behind the firewalls of large enterprises (e.g., IBM’s 380K employees).I keep asking the twitter folks about this. ):

  30. Perry Mizota

    I agree with your point, “the heart of social software is the community of users that forms around the software/service”. Where I disagree, however, is that you only reference employees as a user segment. How about businesses that want to use social software to enable a community among their customers?

  31. brooksjordan

    Someone above mentioned it, but I’ll just highlight it here:Jive Software’s ( Clearspace and ClearspaceX are social software apps for the enterprise, and they definitely represent the best of the open Web.Jive is growing like crazy, winning every award it comes in contact with, and has a horde of evangelizing customers like me.

    1. brooksjordan

      This is how Jive describes itself on its homepage:”Jive Software makes enterprise social software that unites employees and connects them with their customers and partners.”

  32. Kyle

    I think there’s quite an opportunity to take the Google Apps Suite, add an elegant social network with profiles, updates available on your start page, and cross linking between teams and interests to create a enterprise social software. Infact, before leaving my last company, I was designing exactly that, along with the ability tie in some b2b services (health benefits, discounts, etc) to help drive further adoption.Now, if I could just find someone to help fund me for the project. 😉

  33. andrewbadera

    I think too many people are coming at this from within the echo chamber. A large majority of business people, outside of the largest trendy markets, still don’t use, could care less about, Anything 2.0. They know MySpace and Facebook and blogs are something their kids play with. Something with the likelihood of causing more problems than anything else. Blackberries are still the hottest thing in many of their minds, and always-on email is too much for them, much less the rest of this connected community constant conversation hooplah.I believe there is value to be found, to be realized, to be discovered in the 2.0 world. However I think that value, to most enterprises, is going to be absorbed slowly, as accessory features to infrastructure upgrades and enhancements. The wiki is still unheard of, or a new thing, within many enterprises, where collaboration in general is often still a mess. Chat clients are still seen as evil, not as productivity-enhancing, or in cases where it’s available, it’s not widely supported, understood nor adopted within the guidelines or strictures the org puts forth. With basic elements like that lacking, with the essence of mindset that this evidences, how can you expect COOs and CIOs and CEOs outside of the Fortune 500 to care about anything more 2.0-ish? It’s just another bubble to them.

    1. Mike Rowland

      Andrew, you are spot on with your comment. I would add to this that in the echo chamber you mention, the discussion of tools is prevelant. This is the totally wrong focus to move the Enterprise 2.0 or other jargon labelled projects forward in the large organization. Sure, you’ll get attention from a low to mid level director or manager who wants to make a name for him/herself… but the line of business or c-level executive will shoot the project down.Why? Because none of the discussion ever seems to focus on the tangible, measurable benefits to the organization. Top execs do not care about tools, they care about the TCO and ROI to the organization. They care about hitting KPIs that measure concrete organizational goals. (Low and mid-level managers usually miss this point in the discussion.) Think more like SAP, IBM, Oracle and less like the small company that discusses its “cool” technology offering…In our opinion, to make this work and scale, we need to change the discussion away from tools towards results that engage the ultimate business decision maker. That’s why this ‘trend’ hasn’t moved as fast through the large organizational world as we want. To place the blame on firewalls or IT security is a much lower level issue than we tend to make it. The real issue is getting top level executives to understand the tangible benefits that communicating with customers, prospects, members, partners, and employees can bring to the organization. Until we change the discussion, we are working at the wrong level of the organization to gain traction and adoption.We see a very large market out there, one that is expanding in interest. But can we meet the demand for services that deliver tangible organizational results whose measurement is believed by top level executives? That is the real challenge.

  34. Cathleen Rittereiser

    Fred,I moderated a session at O’Reilly’s Money:Tech conference in February called “What Do Hedge Fund Managers Want?”. Our panel focused primarily on Wall Street’s resistance to technology concepts like Open Source and technology services like blogs, wikis and social networks.One of our panelists, J.P. Rangaswami, was way ahead of his time in implementing these services while CIO at Dresdener and has written on this topic extensively. In my introduction I characterized him as standing for “collaboration across the enterprise.” J.P. had several comments on this topic the day of the conference, including the revelation that Goldman employees are using Facebook more extensively than one would think to collaborate with each other.If you aren’t familiar with J.P. Rangaswami, his blog is called Confused of Calcutta and here is a link to a relevant post: http://confusedofcalcutta.c

  35. alive88

    >> Is “Social Enterprise Software” An Oxymoron?doesn’t sound like one to me.>> But to me, the heart of social software is the community of users that forms around the software/service. >> What would twitter or facebook be without users? Nothing. Same with blogger, flickr, friendfeed, etc, etc.I find that internet provides an interesting dichotomy of community. on one hand there is strength in numbers, and there is a power that is created by unifying a large number of people into a community. But on the other hand, the power of unifying specific communities however small is also very powerful. My main example is really a statement on cultural melting versus cultural a cultural community in separation and isolation will clearly die. However, if given the opportunity to connect – there is a new unified strength. (this community can be very small – but it is their common fabric that gives it strength.)[Note: I also recognize that in some respects I have been bucking unabashed sharing to the world. There are certainly times when I am cool with that and want to do that. But for a lot of stuff, and for the most part – I simply want to share socially, and only share socially. To my friends. and maybe their friends. Not sure this distinction is clear or not. ]>> facebook be without usersor more accurately without the 10 people I most want to connect with. of course this in itself is a viral statement, since all of us need the 10 (or 5000) most important people to give facebook relevance. But in an enterprise this is easier to reach this critical mass.And what is the value of facebook anyway? and how would that relate to enterprise that can dictate adoption and use?personally I think friending isn’t particularly relevant within the enterprise. You should have access to anyone in the organization, and you are more interested in connecting with specific communities, functions, and roles.And the enterprise profile is arguably more important than the social profile. : Communities – interested in the same things. have the same skills. membership in something.: Functions – job roles and job related relationships. a Functional Enterprise Graph. – I don’t know if anyone has ever built this. Certainly w/in your job function you are going to want this to also be external to the organization to include your customers.: Roles – your organization chart.I personally believe organizations need centralized authentication, and profiles. And I also think intranets and instant messaging should also be standard.>> And most enterprises don’t want their employees to be active members of a community that it can’t >> control, monitor, and moderateI think it depends on the context. certainly communications in public communities that should be private are a huge enterprise issue. But in the absence of enterprise tools – they may be moved into the public domain.>> consumer facing social web apps like delicious, linkedin, AIM, and skype brought inenterprise tagging/bookmarking – integrated into enterprise search – is pretty useful, and certainly will improve.linkedin. I’ll be honest – I don’t really find any utility. But an enterprise specific searchable directory of people adn resources – certainly is useful.IM/VoIP – of course we (enterprises) need them.Feeds? – yeah!Personalized Activity Streams? – yeah.sorry for the noise.

  36. Thomas

    No, it’s not an oxymoron. The problem is that the skills required to give enterprises comfort don’t generally come from those developers who have made a living creating social software and wind being executives of these types of companies. As an enterprise that has evaluated a few of these offerings, it’s clear that there is a huge skills gap in terms of selling to and servicing enterprise customers. You may think Web 2.0 is great, but a lot of enterprisers think it’s cute. At best.

  37. Steve

    You can also try Manymoon, it’s free:http://www.manymoon.comWith Manymoon you can:* Managed private and shared To Do Lists and Projects.* Works with clients, co-workers and partners…anyone with an email address!* Upload documents and add them to tasks and projects.* Integrate with Google Docs and Google Calendar.* Twitter-like feature to let people know what you are working on.* Automatically convert emails into tasks.

  38. Defrag/Glue

    hey fred – great post (as usual). I’ve been thinking/writing about this as of late, see –……and am looking forward to digging in at Defrag.see you there!ejn

    1. fredwilson

      Me too!