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7/1/2011
01:55 PM
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How 'Social Layer' Unites Enterprise Applications

Telligent Enterprise 3.0 social networking platform promises to build on organizations' existing software, rather than replacing it.

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Telligent Enterprise 3.0 is the enterprise social network for organizations that want to add a "social layer" atop their existing software, rather than replacing it all.

"We want to show how we can help you extract even more value from your existing enterprise investments," founder and Chief Technology Officer Rob Howard said in an interview.

This week's update was specifically for Telligent's software for internal employee communities. Like its most direct competitor, Jive Software, Telligent supports both external customer communities and internal employee communities, whereas many other social software firms focus on one or the other. Telligent Enterprise and Telligent Community both run atop a common platform called Telligent Evolution.

As a former Microsoft developer who worked on the creation of the ASP.NET incarnation of Microsoft's Web development platform, Howard said he particularly stresses the need to create a software platform that other applications can be built on and integrated with, and this release furthers that vision. Earlier this year, Telligent announced integrations with Microsoft Lync and SharePoint 2010, continuing its commitment to the Microsoft platform.

This puts Telligent in a class of products that can fill the gaps in SharePoint as a social platform, but without being quite as SharePoint-centric as NewsGator's SharePoint-based social software. "Our approach is that SharePoint is one of many pieces we want to integrate with, along with Active Directory and Microsoft Lync," Howard said.

Microsoft isn't the only vendor whose software Telligent wants to integrate with, but it's an important one because so many customers have made significant investments in SharePoint that they want to leverage within their social strategy, Howard said.

Howard said although the word "platform" is overused in the software industry, one of the ways Telligent is providing a platform rather than an application is by making a long-term commitment to support a set of application programming interfaces across versions. Telligent Enterprise 3.0 also provides a Template Studio and Widget Studio for customizing the user interface, and major features have been broken down into customizable components. For example, business users who want to simplify the presentation of the product's discussion forums can turn off features by customizing that widget through the studio. Customization options are accessible to Web designers working with a simple template language, rather than requiring programming, Howard said.

The Widget Studio also can be used to add features, such as integration with Facebook or other products, Howard said. However, IT also can impose limits on the available widgets and customization options, he said.

That's important because many IT departments are struggling to gain control over social software that was implemented by independently business users, as security and compliance issues arise around those applications, Howard said. "This is about providing the flexibility, while also giving the control behind the scenes."

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