Enterprise social software spurs connections

The InfoWorld Test Center reveals the strengths and weaknesses of blogging, wiki, and community solutions from CubeTree, Jive, Socialtext, and Telligent

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Jive Social Business Software 3.0
I've watched Clearspace evolve over the years from a business-class wiki to a sophisticated product for building user communities. So it made sense for Jive Software to combine its collaboration and community pieces into a single solution, Jive Social Business Software (SBS).

[ Learn how Clearspace 2.0 makes the business case for social software. ]

SBS is available as four packages ("centers"): Employee Engagement, Innovation, Marketing and Sales, and Support. These predesignated solutions make configuration and management easier for IT staff or system administrators. For example, the Marketing and Sales Center includes an internal employee area for collaboration and a public marketplace to engage your customers. The new Bridging Module links the two marketplaces, while Analytics and Insights modules provide metrics and reporting.

There's also a new video module -- think of it as YouTube for business -- which is a standard component of other center configurations. Videos, which respect the security you've established, can appear alone or be embedded with other content. The video capability might be used for training and is part of the employee engagement system I tested on a Windows Server 2003 system.

SBS continues to provide one of the better collaborative wiki and blog environments. The text editor lets me create pages with rich media (videos and photos) and polls. Other users can then rate content and offer feedback.

Content is organized using a hierarchy of spaces, groups (self-organizing communities), and projects. Further, project pages may include calendars, milestones, and tasks. SBS makes sorting through all this information pretty simple. One way is by customizing your home page (or any of the secondary pages) by dragging and dropping widgets.


Additionally, Jive has made numerous improvements throughout that create a better user experience. For instance, there's a new Places widget that let me quickly see which spaces, projects, and groups I participated in. The new social bookmarking is another helpful way to consolidate information you rely upon. You can mark documents, discussions, blog posts, content in others' profiles, and external Web content; all are neatly presented within one widget.

Profile tooltips, a nice refinement, present a summary of someone when you hover over their avatar. Besides an instant look at the person's background, you can easily follow (or un-follow) them.

Jive put a lot of work into upgrading search. I liked the redesigned search results page, which makes it faster to filter results. Moreover, contextual type-ahead search now lets you search specifically within the current space, project, or group.

Although I didn't extensively test external communities (the old Clearspace Community product) this time, I did try the Bridging Module. It's a valuable dashboard where you mash up content from internal and external communities. For example, I could see popular blog posts that customers created next to which employees were responding to these customer questions.

Analytics is the next challenge for social software, and one that SBS meets. The out-of-the-box Analytics dashboard (included with employee engagement) measures who's participating the most, including the number of blogs and documents they've authored. You can also take a broader view of activities, perhaps seeing that the most popular discussion is around a particular research paper.

Conversely, the Insight module shows what people are thinking. This analysis evaluates thousands of messages (looking for popular terms or keywords that you define) and uncovers users' opinions, filtered by topic. While Insight would be critical to spotting customer complaints about a product or what they're looking for in the next version, I could also see this optional module working well internally. For example, you might learn how employees feel about a new organization structure.

Compared to Socialtext, SBS is generally more complete, especially when you're building both internal and external communities. However, with this sophistication comes longer learning time and more steps to accomplish common tasks. About the only major omission is an API. Analytics is done well, though not as robust as Telligent's monitoring feature.

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