As anyone with even a passing interest in the subject can tell you, the landscape of vendors selling social software has become extremely complex — even cluttered. The cornucopia of options presents a significant challenge — not just for potential users stymied by the selection process, but also for any analysis firm attempting to deliver relevant assessments of those vendors.
Forrester Research, for example, renamed and repositioned its Forrester Wave for Brand Monitoring as the Forrester Wave for Listening Platforms, in an attempt to better reflect the software's value. Gartner, the largest analyst firm, had already done a renaming of its own in 2008, shortening the title of the Magic Quadrant for Team Collaboration and Social Software to the Magic Quadrant for Social Software. Since then, however, Gartner decided cosmetic tweaks weren't going to cut it, and undertook a wholesale resegmentation of the social software marketplace, splitting the single report into three, with boundaries more closely resembling those of a Venn diagram than those of a traditional segmentation pie chart.
The firm recently unveiled its third and final report on the topic of social software, coming on the heels of the first-ever Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social CRM report and several months after the release of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software in the Workplace report. This third segment, the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Externally Facing Social Software (EFSS), focuses solely on interactions that pass beyond an organization's firewall.
"We spent a lot of time figuring out the boundaries and overlap between EFSS, social CRM, and social software for the workplace," explains Jeffrey Mann, research vice president for collaboration and social software at Gartner. "We were especially concerned about the first two. With any new market, defining the boundaries and criteria are often hardest task." He notes that, in the end, there was less overlap than the analysts had anticipated.
In Gartner's view, the purposes of EFSS are broader than those of CRM. Although Gartner acknowledges that EFSS can be multipurposed to handle internal collaboration as well, the software mainly targets communities outside of the organization — as Gartner's explicit acronym for the sector clearly indicates. "EFSS differs from social CRM primarily due to the use cases that it targets," the report states. "The general-purpose EFSS products profiled here are not focused on or marketed to users for the narrow purpose of extending CRM processes."
According to Gartner, the EFSS market is developing quickly, but remains young — and, as a result, the analysis firm had to make some adjustments in its requirements for inclusion. "We did set the bar fairly low for revenue and numbers of users — lower than we do for more-established markets," Mann says. "We wanted to make [the minimum figures] high enough to only include real companies with an established record, without excluding too many." In fact, Gartner initially considered 65 vendors for inclusion in the report, eventually narrowing that list down, through established requirements, to 15 players.
Here's Gartner's breakdown:
The small number of Leaders, Gartner says, is indicative of a young-but-growing market. (The "growing" aspect may even be outpacing the "young," since this quadrant was completely empty in 2008's Magic Quadrant for Social Software.) "These vendors," the report authors write, "have established themselves in the market with widely used social software and collaboration offerings. They have recognized user needs in this market early, have significant market presence, and have succeeded in delivering attractive suites with broad capabilities in offerings that include both services and software." (As an example of the overlapping nature of Gartner's three reports, the same two vendors were named Leaders in the reports for both EFSS and social CRM.)
- Microsoft — The only megavendor to grace this Magic Quadrant report, Microsoft fared better in Gartner's rating of its completeness of vision than of its ability to execute. The report authors note that Microsoft's "wide reach through its channels and partners makes it a potential Leader in most markets where it chooses to compete."
These players "demonstrate strong understanding of current and future market trends, such as the importance of a flexible, transparent user experience, as well as the value of mutual reinforcement between tools that encourage user contribution and tools that facilitate bottom-up formation of groups and organizational structures."
Mann says it's likely that some of the Niche Player vendors will merge with or be acquired by others before next year's report. Niche Players, Gartner writes, "provide useful, focused technology, understand changing market dynamics, and work toward evolving their product capabilities." These companies are narrow in scope, however, and must grow in order to survive in coming years.
- Open Text [Editors' Note: Named a CRM Rising Star in 2010.]
- Day Software
- Leverage Software
- INgage Networks (formerly Neighborhood America)
- Sparta Social Networks
Though Mann says to expect some consolidation, he adds that he doesn't anticipate a return to a single, unified social software Magic Quadrant anytime soon. "Certainly these areas are converging, but rather than there being one big market, I expect social CRM to split into several as the technologies mature," he says. "Even now, it's tough to compare social media monitoring tools with social network campaign management or community products. So I expect more markets with more-specialized targets."
[Editors' Note: For more on social media and CRM, see CRM magazine's special Social Media Issues from June 2009 and June 2010.]
For companies considering EFSS, Gartner recommends using its report as only one aspect of more-extensive research. "I still see too many companies jumping in to ‘see what happens' or expect to let the tool lead them to success," Mann says. "That hardly ever happens."
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