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Dave Foxall NewsGator's Social Sites Software Review

3 stars Average rating: 3 (from 99 votes)
 By Dave Foxall

A Social HR Software Vendor Solution Brief

Founded in Denver in 2004, NewsGator's core focus is on knowledge sharing and collaboration; a fact well-embodied in the company's flagship product, Social Sites—an enterprise-class social business software that launched in 2007. Leveraging Microsoft's SharePoint, Social Sites provides functions such as microblogging, social profiles, mobile clients, video, badging, and expertise location, creating an integrated platform which has garnered numerous awards and accolades:

  • Gartner cited Social Sites as the product most frequently mentioned by Gartner clients in relation to Microsoft SharePoint add-ons for extending social networking capability with minimum overlaps and deep integration into the user interface.
  • NewsGator was named a Microsoft U.S. Partner of the Year for demonstrating excellence in innovation and implementation of customer solutions based on Microsoft technology.
  • In the same year, Social Sites won the Frost & Sullivan Customer Value Enhancement Award for Enterprise Collaboration Software due to its ability to leverage and extend existing investments.
  • The Forrester Wave: Enterprise Social Platforms, gave Social Sites top scores for cross-platform support, information workplace readiness, adaptability for varying industries such as social media for retailers, architecture, and administration.

Following a 2010 acquisition, NewsGator also offers the Tomoye community and social learning solution; particularly attractive to government and public sector clients due to its support for DoD security standards and accessibility standards such as section 508, or Common Look and Feel in Canada.

NewsGator's Social Sites Application Purpose

Social Sites is an integrated, behind-the-firewall, social workforce software computing platform that supports collaboration, facilitates communication, and improves worker knowledge. While the company also provides APIs (application programming interfaces) to import or export data with other systems, the core focus is Microsoft's SharePoint. The system's key functionality falls into one of 9 areas; explained further as follows:

  • Communities – which turn SharePoint groups into Social Sites communities of practice (CoP) for projects, initiatives, and common interests. Options for this social functionality include security, community naming, and URL assignment, but users can also utilize online Communities as central discussion locations and document repositories. Further features include: search/tag clouds; recommended communities based on activity; RSS subscriptions to community news; updates and notifications delivered via SharePoint, cell phones, web, and desktop interfaces; and URL tagging directly from internet browsers so content automatically appears within the community for viewing.
  • Microblogging – which allows for spontaneous knowledge sharing through updates longer than 140 characters; uploading of videos, links, files and images; real-time brainstorming, social collaboration and decision making; targeted updates to specific colleagues or communities; and hashtag classification. Securely housed in the SharePoint environment, Microblogging users can leverage email, mobile, and desktop technologies for flexible access and updating, but an optional, daily email is also provided.
  • Activity Streams - an aggregated flow of events, content, and activities that includes events from SharePoint, external streams, and other internal and/or 3rd-party applications; this feature also allows users to a) view/comment/like content via desktop or mobile device; and b) filter activities by community, colleague, self, status, most popular, and other customized specifications.
  • Spheres – an alternative to the in-depth options of SharePoint Team sites and Social Sites Community, Spheres provides users with the ability for "light-weight" groups that are public (which any user can follow) or private (which are not discoverable and users must be invited to).
  • Social Profiles - a simple profile-building coach (with automated profile recommendations), this feature allows users to create and maintain their face to the organization; establish transparent organizational norms and guidelines.
  • Social Insights – functionality that offers the capabilities for individual and administrative measuring and tracking of activity through: the Pivot Search Viewer (which allows drilling down into events within individual activity streams and public microblogs); an intuitive "Top News" feature that learns user preferences; community manager dashboards; and monthly reports for evaluating user adoption and participation.
  • Lync Integration – which allows for conversations via Microsoft Lync integration and provides real-time IM, audio, and video conversations, as well as the ability to record and share video calls with colleagues through the activity stream.
  • Glassboard Integration – which fosters mobile group engagement with external stakeholders through interaction with Glassboard groups via the Social Sites activity stream.
  • Desktop & Email Clients – which allow for participation in Social Sites without being inside the platform; and provides a desktop client for non-browser access to both SharePoint and Social Sites.

NewsGator also offers a number of non-standard value-add modules for Social Sites, including:

  • Idea Stream - Allows the capture of input, feedback, and conversations from customers, partners, and employees submitted via the activity stream, the Social Sites desktop, email, or mobile clients.
  • Mobile - Mobile access via Android, Blackberry, iPad, and iPhone.
  • News Stream - Integrated, secure RSS feeds from news sites, blogs, wikis, external social streams (e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), and enterprise applications.
  • Spotlight - Allows users to shine as subject-matter experts and earn merit-based, e-badges, enabling location, recognition and motivation of top performers.
  • Video Stream - Rapidly post and play videos in their activity streams for on-the-fly training, product demos, new concept explanations, customer stories, etc.

NewsGator's Customer Target Market

NewsGator's customer count expanded with one million new paid seats from 100 new clients (a 50% increase). Current NewsGator clients include Accenture, Adidas, Charles Schwab, Deloitte, eBay, Fujitsu, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Kraft Foods, the United States Air Force, and the United States Army.

NewsGator's Perfect Prospect Profile (PPP)

Ideally either Global 2000 organizations or mid-size companies who want to fully leverage their SharePoint application with the business benefits of social media are best suited to Social Sites. However, NewsGator currently caters to the specific requirements of the following industries: consumer goods & retail, government & military, financial services, life sciences, professional services, technology & manufacturing.

NewsGator's Deployment Options

Social Sites is available via both on-premises and cloud deployments; with the cloud becoming more common given SharePoint's Software as a Service (SaaS) computing options. However, NewsGator is also able to create hybrid approaches that support the client's individual security, control, and scalability needs (though the company did not provide any particular specifications).

NewsGator's Primary Competitors

While Social Sites deep integration with Microsoft SharePoint remains unique strong, there are other business social software alternatives. Both Jive Social Software and Telligent are enterprise class offerings often cited as direct competitors.

Strengths of NewsGator's Social Sites System
 

  • No other social software vendor rivals the deep integration with the entire Microsoft stack; delivering a technology synergy that supports seamless integration, a common user experience, faster user adoption and reduced total cost of ownership.
  • Social Sites supports more languages than any other major E2.0 software product; currently providing: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Traditional Chinese and Turkish.

Weaknesses of NewsGator's Social Sites System
 

  • Organizations without SharePoint face a double purchase, implementation and support.
  • While other HR and business software generally automate and improve existing practices, Social Sites introduces many new concepts (as do other business social solutions) which (while potentially transformative) will require a major change management program to encourage adoption in a previously 'non-social' organization.

Bottom-line for NewsGator's Social Sites Software

NewsGator has mirrored most of the current and popular features found on personal social media applications which makes adoption easy and intuitive for socially experienced users. As well, the unparalleled enhancements to Microsoft SharePoint creates a ready-made market of around 125 million seats for whom NewsGator would seem the easy (if not logical) choice, both in the U.S. and globally. Given the breadth and depth of this social software solution, it seems unlikely that a competitor will oust NewsGator from their perch within this niche market; however, moving away from SharePoint, there are equally innovative competitors—a fact that NewsGator must remain cognizant of in order to remain relevant. End

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Social Sites is an integrated, behind-the-firewall, social computing platform that supports collaboration, facilitates communication, and improves worker knowledge.

 

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