Enterprise Social Vendors Play Own Game Of Survivor

App stores and APIs are signs the social software ecosystem is evolving fast. Which companies will survive, and which will become extinct?
Who are the big fish in the social software and enterprise collaboration ecosystem? Which relationships will prove symbiotic, parasitic, predator, and prey?

Enterprise 2.0
I saw a software (and software-as-a-service) ecosystem rapidly evolving at Enterprise 2.0, a UBM TechWeb event, in Boston last week. Some species of software will be extinct a few years from now, but others are warily circling each other trying to figure out how to coexist.

The night before the conference opened, I got a demo of SAP Streamwork from Holly Simmons, senior director of marketing at SAP. Steamwork has many of the features of an enterprise social networking product, such as user profiles and activity streams, but Simmons said it is "more directed and goal oriented," with a basis in SAP process management, rather than a tool for general enterprise collaboration. The Streamwork message stream links into other, more structured parts of the system built around specific activities, such as naming a product or planning an event. That's in contrast with the enterprise social collaboration products from companies like Jive Software.

"We're not trying to do what Jive does," Simmons said, adding that she was more interested in partnering with enterprise social software companies than competing with them.

In March, SAP added support for the OpenSocial standard for making connections between communities to StreamWork. Jive Software is a big supporter of the same specification, and SAP is already a customer of Jive Software for its online developer communities. So a partnership between the two sounds like a definite maybe, although nothing has been announced.

When I asked Jive executives about Streamwork, their reaction was that it would make "a perfect app" for their app marketplace--which is Jive's strategy for making it as easy to add enterprise apps to your enterprise social network as it is to add a Facebook or iPhone app.

Chris Morace, Jive's senior VP of business development, said he believes many software vendors will add social features to their products, but few will want to deliver a full suite of social software capabilities--or be able to succeed at it if they try.

StreamWork is one of several products I've seen recently in categories like business intelligence and project management that aren't meant to be general-purpose social networks but are still adopting user interface conventions from Facebook and social software products. Perhaps the activity stream and the social profile will be as ubiquitous in the Enterprise 2.0 world as the dialog box was on Windows.

"Every enterprise system will have a feed, will have profiles--but that's not the same as being an enterprise social network," Yammer CEO David Sacks agreed, in an interview. Yammer has its own application programming interface plans for embedding other applications inside its social networking platform, and its own functionality inside other apps and Web pages. Every other social collaboration vendor has a similar strategy, or is working on one.

Where possible, they will try to divert potential competitors into partnership, as Jive appears to be on the way to doing with SAP. In the end, of course, some will still have to fight tooth and nail for survival.

GTEC brings together leading public and private sector experts to collaborate on serving Canadian citizens better through innovation and technology. It happens in Ottawa, Oct. 17-20. Find out more.