Socialtext Fosters Enterprise 2.0 Collaboration

Do enterprises need better wikis? Of course there’s always room for improvement, and Socialtext says its latest 3.0 release does just that for companies looking to get better management features and value from their use of the collaborative online tools.

Last week’s announcement of Socialtext 3.0 includes two new features, Socialtext Dashboard and Socialtext People, that offer new ways to manage information, conversations and connections.

The new version also includes what the company calls four core solution areas: Business Social Networks, Collaborative Intelligence, Flexible Client Collaboration and Participatory Knowledgebase.

Socialtext was a pioneer in providing enterprises with so-called Web 2.0 collaborative tools designed for businesses and other large organizations. Interest in bringing these tools — wikis, blogs, RSS feeds — to enterprises is high. Forrester Research predicts that enterprise spending on Web 2.0 technologies will reach $4.6 billion globally by 2013.

With the 3.0 release, Socialtext is providing a service component designed to help companies make the best use of what is sometimes referred to as software.

“When IT offers wikis as a utility and says ‘come and get it’ you end up with a thousand dead wikis in the enterprise when they’re not applied to a business process,” Ross Mayfield, co-founder and president of Socialtext, told

“The value add isn’t the technology — we’ve had great technology — it’s the social effect you put on top of it,” she said, adding that the company has examined use of the wikis over the past five years and determined where the value is for companies.

Mayfield said Socialtext will now partner with IT departments as well as business managers to help implement wikis and other applications most effectively. “We needed to make wikis more people-centric,” said Mayfield. “They can kind of suppress the identity of individuals, but in the enterprise there’s more social context when you know who the writer is– that can carries a different weight.”

Dashboard and People are currently in beta, and Socialtext said they will be commercially available within a quarter.

IDC analyst Rachel Happe said Enterprise 2.0 companies such as Socialtext and Jive, which unveiled a major new release of its Clearspace social productivity platform earlier this month, should continue to fill out their product offerings.

“I think that it’s critical for a company like Socialtext to broaden what it offers so its value doesn’t get gobbled up by a content-management system or Microsoft’s SharePoint,” she said.

Happe said Socialtext is smart to focus on helping enterprises manage their wikis with a dashboard and other features Sharepoint doesn’t offer. “The power of wikis is to get more people contributing,” she said. “But there are a lot of cultural rollout issues — you can’t just ‘build it and they will come.'”

Mayfield said the latest release is also meant to reflect changes in the marketplace. “We’re at the point where social software is an established category of enterprise software. But when people talk about social networking, we’re trying to elevate the discussion beyond features,” he commented. “Wikipedia isn’t a feature, it’s a community. You need expertise to foster communities.”

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