Entries from April 2009 ↓

Different fortunes in social software

This economy is tough stuff for lots of small software vendors, but perhaps particularly those that are selling “improved productivity” or “enhanced collaboration” in the face of frozen IT budgets.  All is not doom and gloom however.  For example, Jive Software announced today that Q1 was its best quarter ever with 100% year-over-year revenue growth and its second quarter of being cash-flow positive.

Jive seems to be more the exception than the rule though as far as social software goes.  We know Mzinga has had two rounds of layoffs and a CEO change in recent months as it works towards profitability.  Similarly, Socialtext also had a small layoff and took additional funding — taking Socialtext’s total funding to about $18m.

What’s the difference between these vendors?  Some of it is technology certainly, but also a clarity of message.  I think Jive was early to market with what it is now calling “social business software” — in other words, a product that combines functions from multiple point tools (e.g., forums, wikis, social networking).   And Jive is playing in the big leagues versus large vendors selling enterprise deals for collaboration.  Selling deals for external, customer community sites also helps, as some of the external initiatives funded from marketing budgets are holding up better than large internal collab deals.

And from my perspective as an analyst in the content management realm, I also see a lot of WCM vendors coming out with more legit social software products – Day Software and EPiServer are two recent ones that come to mind.  How will these products fare as part of broader WCM suites?  Will they be the de facto choice for customers that use WCM products from these vendors?  Or has the market gone a different direction?  This is something I’ve blogged about before, but the social products from WCM vendors are getting stronger so the issue is becoming more real.

The noise in the enterprise social software market has certainly begun to die down and that is a good thing.  Looking forward to Enterprise 2.0 this year and the chance to hear more about what’s working and what’s not.

Brief thoughts on Attensity Group

451 clients will be getting our fill report on this deal today, so I won’t be spilling all our thoughts on the deal (or all the details of the structure) here. But here’s a few initial thoughts on the news:

  • The new entity will comprise a bigger threat against the many text analysis competitors recently acquired by much larger companies, notably Teragram by SAS, ClearForest by Reuters and Inxight by Business Objects (and subsequently by SAP), as well as SPSS, which got into this business via acquisition back in 2003.
  • Such deals aren’t usually done from a position of dominance and it’s fair to say that Attensity wasn’t growing as fast as it used to be. They’re driven in part by investors who either want a payout now or see the potential for one by adding heft to a company and thus getting some economies of scale.
  • Attensity remains in the voice of the customer business, but adds a few more, including customer self-service.
  • CEO Ian Bonner and CTO Ian Hersey are back together almost two years since selling Inxight.
  • Hersey now has a major software integration job on his hands for the next couple of years.

Microsoft sheds more light on Office 14

Microsoft has begun to share information on what it calls the “waves” of Office 14 products set to hit the market this year and next. Most of the information at this point is on Microsoft Exchange 2010, which has entered public beta. General availability is expected in the second half of this year.

There’s also some info for SharePoint, though little detail. Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 will go into technical preview in Q3 2009 and be generally available in the first half of 2010.  Beyond that, we still don’t know what will and won’t be in SharePoint.next (though we don’t have to call it that anymore).

The part of the Exchange 2010 announcement that caught my attention is the reference to an integrated e-mail archive.  Did Microsoft just enter the email archiving market?  That would certainly be noteworthy, given that much of the hot email archiving market involves archiving Exchange email.  Since Microsoft hasn’t had a horse in this race, this has been the realm of third-party providers like Symantec and Mimosa Systems to date.

On the analyst telebriefing held today by Microsoft on this announcement, I asked about this and the role for Microsoft’s email archiving partners going forward.  Michael Atalla, Group Product Manager for Exchange at Microft told me that Microsoft is out to meet the needs of the 80% of its customers that don’t yet have any email archiving technology and that existing email archiving products serve a “niche” of the market at the high end for customers that have to meet regulatory requirements for email archiving.

While I agree there is still a lot of opportunity in the email archiving space, describing existing adoption as limited to those in regulated industries isn’t exactly accurate.

I’ve tried to dig deeper into what this integrated archive includes.  Not easy, as there is no mention of archiving at all in the TechNet docs on Exchange 2010 (though there’s quite a bit of interesting detail on records and retention management).

Best I can tell, Exchange 2010 lets you create individual or “personal archives.”  This page from Microsoft explains that a personal archive is:

an additional mailbox associated with a user’s primary mailbox.  It appears alongside the primary mailbox folders in Outlook. In this way, the user has direct access to e-mail within the archive just as they would their primary mailbox. Users can drag and drop PST files into the Personal Archive, for easier online access – and more efficient discovery by the organization. Mail items from the primary archive can also be offloaded to the Personal Archive automatically, using Retention Polices…

So it moves the PST file from the desktop to the server, which makes it more available for online searching and discovery purposes.  But is that really email archiving?  I can see how that would be attractive to end users that want an easier way to access archived emails, but it seems like it would increase the load on the mail server and not handle things like de-duping, which archiving is generally meant to address.

I’m not an expert on email archiving though.  I’d love to hear from anyone who has comments.

AIIM perspectives

Is there anything new under the ECM sun? I heard lots of folks commenting this week at the annual AIIMExpo that there doesn’t appear to be.  I found some interesting nuggets though; here’s a sampling:

Open source – maybe I seek these ones out but I think the presence of open source at these content management shows is obviously growing – I’ve commented on this before.  I met with Alfresco, KnowledgeTree and Nuxeo (briefly).

I expected to hear a good deal of talk about information governance. I didn’t really, though there were certainly lots of sessions on the agenda in this vein that I missed. Instead I seemed to hear more about “nuts-and-bolts” ECM – customers, this year in particular, seem to be looking to solve specific process problems with specific apps and are less interested in talking about the “E” in content management. Not sure what that means as far as information governance goes, other than there’s an obvious need to tie governance strategies directly to content apps.

SaaS – I met with SpringCM, which has added more partners building apps on its SaaS ECM platform. Hyland Software also notes decent growth for its OnBase OnLine product.

The ECM heavyweights continue to duke it out. No major changes on this front, though Oracle appears to be more of a disruptive force than it was a year ago, as it ties UCM more aggressively (both technically and from a licensing perspective) to its various apps. I met with some Oracle folks that claim a “triple-digit” growth rate for Oracle’s UCM group in Oracle’s FY08 over the revenue previously generated separately by Stellent and Oracle’s ContentDB product.

SharePoint, SharePoint, SharePoint – this pervasiveness is not news really. I didn’t go to any sessions specifically intended to be about SharePoint but still I heard about technologies to ensure disposition policies on SharePoint content, manage enterprise meta data structures tied to SharePoint, extend SharePoint’s ECM functions and so on. I also met with several vendors that basically compete with SharePoint from various angles and such discussions aren’t complete without analysis those competitive strategies.

In general, AIIM seemed quiet to me this year and those manning booths also commented that foot traffic seemed light. Some of that is no doubt simply because travel is being restricted all around, but like others, I wonder a bit about the relevancy of AIIMExpo going forward.  I don’t necessarily think that folks are going to stop going to tradeshows, but perhaps they want events that are more tailored to a particular vertical and/or technology.  AIIMExpo is a bit hard to pin down, covering content technologies at such a high level as it does. There’s a strong focus on apps that include capture and imaging to be sure, but other than that, it’s a bit of a mish-mash. FatWire Software was the only major independent WCM vendor I saw, despite a full WCM track.  And I didn’t see any social software vendors, even though Tony Byrne gave what I heard was a lively session on the topic.

As for my session on WCM + social software, it was somewhat lightly attended, though it was pitted against 9 other sessions (!), so that’s not exactly surprising. But the audience was engaged and we had some good discussion about adding social components to an existing site versus building a community site that sits as something of a separate arm off the main site.

There were lots of heads nodding when I talked about a move to consolidate social tools – for those orgs that have put up a WordPress blog over here and a wiki over there or maybe a discussion forum for customer support, and now wondering how to pull these together for better profile management, content re-use and overall consistency.  This could bode well for WCM vendors already running the main .com site for such a customer, but most WCM vendors still have a ways to go on the social software front.  Something for discussion at the next content management show, I’m sure…