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
Telligent Community 5.0 and Telligent Enterprise 2.0
Like Jive and Socialtext, Telligent recently renamed its products; Telligent Community (for managing public groups) was previously called Community Server, and Telligent Enterprise (for internal collaboration) had a past life as Community Server Evolution.
But whatever the name, these latest versions don't deviate from Telligent's philosophy over the past five years of delivering a platform that integrates various applications and services, whether from Telligent or your other IT system providers. That's a fundamental shift from products that often are disconnected from how enterprises manage knowledge -- typically spread throughout CRM, document management, and myriad other tools. Telligent has also addressed many of the usability concerns and functional gaps we noted in the previous versions.
[ Check out the Test Center's hands-on evaluation: Lab test: Telligent Community Server 2008 spurs collaboration ]
Telligent Enterprise 2.0's new site navigation is a key improvement because it lets you quickly browse through the most popular groups in the community. A special search function instantly pinpoints a particular group (out of potentially thousands) in the community. I also like the Favorite Places drop-down, which lets me create a custom list of groups, wikis, blogs, forums, and file galleries that I frequent.
User profiles now connect with LDAP and Active Directory servers; therefore, users' information is prepopulated when they first sign in. And the biography area is improved with an in-line rich-text editor, which lets users share photos and other information about themselves.
In the previous version, you needed database and programming skills to customize Telligent's user interface. Now, as with Socialtext and Jive SBS, you can drag widgets onto your profile page. I had no trouble adding the third-party TokBox video chat application to my profile page using Telligent's generic widget. Still, I'd give the advantage to Socialtext with its open widgets and better management.
Telligent's activity streams are somewhat like other social networking solutions. But instead of showing content "tweets" on your home page, you see an action timeline of what people are doing and talking about, which helps build social connections.
You can also post a status update to just those people within a group, which was one of my favorite new features. Other products do something similar, but it usually requires each person to manually adjust their settings to receive messages intended for specific groups.
Telligent Community 5.0 is now widget-based, too, which makes customization and branding quick and fast. For instance, I dragged a content widget to my test home page to display a special message or breaking news. I then applied a different template to completely change the page's layout.
As an administrator, it was easy to create any of the five types of groups, which range from public to private unlisted. Within these groups, there's a blog, form, file area, and wiki by default. Each group can have its own look and layout.
Similarly, end-users can customize their home page by adding, deleting, or rearranging widgets, as well as change their user profile, just like internal users do with Telligent Enterprise.
Activity streams are also improved in Community 5.0. There may be a great deal of activity in large groups, so your home page now organizes it under different tabs, such as People and Groups, Messages, and My Activity.
Telligent Analytics 3.0 wasn't available for testing. However, the software I previewed appeared to connect Web and social analytics along with listening tools in ways I haven't seen before in collaboration software. There's the typical Web analytics to see page views and unique visitors. Significantly, managers can easily see -- using the Influencer's widget -- what activities users participate in and what they're talking about. These "social finger prints" have tangible value since you might spot problems before they affect your business.
Overall, Telligent continues to refine their social software so that employees and the public are active contributors to communities. The API helps you integrate third-party services and lets resellers add features for vertical markets, such as health care. And you can analyze conversations. While those are all positive characteristics of enterprise software, there's also a downside: Telligent is far from a plug-and-play solution. The Telligent software took me the longest of all the applications to configure before it was useful.