Moxie and Saba: Has The Next Generation Social Enterprise Arrived?

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Thanks to well-timed announcements by Moxie Software and Saba, I’ve heard no less than three vendors tell me that they’ve prepared the next generation of the social enterprise model in the last week. Salesforce.com makes up the trio. But is social media in the workplace evolving, or is this just more hype?

Saba People Cloud

Human resources solution vendor Saba claims that the next level for social lies with its software-as-a-service (SaaS) Saba People Cloud, which combines talent management, unified communications, collaboration and learning, and generally supporting what the company refers to as “modern people proceses.” It’s designed to connect employees with each other, outside vendors, partners and customers.

“Email changed the way we work. Now we’re doing it again, by putting people, not information, at the center of the organization. To truly transform the way people work, social collaboration technologies must replace hierarchies, silos and the organization chart. This is what we’ve accomplished with the Saba People Cloud, the industry’s first people-centric social enterprise platform delivered as a service,” said Saba CEO Bobby Yazdani in a statement.

That people-centrism Yazdani mentions is best represented by the fact that it combines both the enterprise and personal profiles into a single whole, and layers analytics on top of that. Those analytics are used for an interesting end, as Saba People Cloud makes a specialty out of tracking the influence of individuals across a company, giving each worker a “People Quotient,” or PQ, score that measures reputation and impact.

Also of note is that Saba People Cloud supports both OpenSocial and RESTful APIs, allowing for the integration of data from external CRM/ERP systems and the like, and potentially making it a platform for future enterprise application development.

Moxie Software

Moxie Software, developer of the flagship Spaces by Moxie business social networking product, isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. But it is trying to address the same “social divide” that Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff identified on stage at last week’s Cloudforce conference, connecting back-office technical employees with customers.

After all, says Moxie CMO Tara Sporer, social collaboration within an enterprise is fine, but a business is nothing without its customer base, and the modern approach to social tends to keep them disconnected from actual employees. Enter the new Expert Connect feature, which enables interdepartmental communication and lets HR get answers from IT get answers from sales get answers from marketing, such that the customer is always kept in the loop with advice from those best suited to give it.

On that same note, a new Spaces Connect feature, an integration framework that connects external applications like CRM, ERP, CMS and so on with the social network, to put the enterprise back into “social enterprise.” Both features will become available by March 31st, 2012 as part of an update pack.

Services Angle

In its press release, Saba quotes an IDC report indicating that the social platforms market, which includes social networking, will hit just shy of $2 billion by 2014, which equates to compound growth of around 38% per year. If IDC is on point, there’s definitely room for multiple vendors, even if Salesforce did coin the term-slash-buzzword “social enterprise.”

And speaking of Salesforce, a recent article on Wikibon identified the cloud service provider’s focus on layering analytics as a major value add for the enterprise – a focus that Saba, at least, seems to share. Meanwhile, as mentioned before Moxie is addressing that very same “social divide” between customer-facing and internal social enterprise software that Benioff has been talking about. It’s not that Salesforce is the gold standard, to be clear – but the company’s focus on social and its $3 billion run rate aren’t exactly coincidences.

But back to the question at hand. Are any of these providers offering the “next generation” of social enterprise? I’m not so sure. What I see instead is a maturing industry segment, and one that’s finally matching technology to customer needs. In fact, I might argue that what we’re seeing is the emergence of a first generation of really useful, customer-focused tools.