Microsoft has just announced at the Web 2.0 Summit that it is partnering with Atlassian on its enterprise wiki product Confluence and Newsgator on its newly released Newsgator Social sites, which is “a collection of site templates, profiles, Web parts and middleware”. Both products will be integrated into Sharepoint.
This is a very interesting announcement on a number of fronts. It shows that Microsoft recognizes that its Enterprise 2.0 offering (what Microsoft calls “social computing”) needs bolstering. Sharepoint is fundamentally a collaboration and document management system, and in fact provides both the underlying capabilities and many of the functionalities required in applying Web 2.0 approaches inside the enterprise. However these are not always easy to set up and use, which is a requisite of Web 2.0 technologies. For example, since Sharepoint is among other things a richly-featured document management system, wiki-style functionality is a core part of the offering. However it is not an out-of-the-box capability, meaning administrators usually need to configure the setup, at least in the first case. RSS, another staple of Enterprise 2.0, can be enabled in any Sharepoint document. However again this is not an intuitive end-user function.
In this case, Microsoft is choosing to partner with leading companies in the space. Atlassian was featured as one of our five showcased companies at our Web 2.0 in Australia event, and ranked second on my list of top 60 Web 2.0 Apps in Australia earlier this year. Atlassian is the leader in enterprise wikis, saying 4,000 organizations globally using their wiki product. Its ease of use is one of the major advantages over the current Sharepoint wiki offering.
With companies such as IBM and BEA now with very solid Enterprise 2.0 offerings, and most content management system vendors with credible offerings in the space, Microsoft is finding that this an increasingly important capability. While the majority of large organizations are early in their implementation of Web 2.0 inside the firewall, almost all are experimenting, and quite a few CIOs see that Enterprise 2.0 could be a core feature of their enterprise architecture within the next few years. These capabilities are probably at this point marginal in terms of making platform decisions, however that could change quite quickly, and there are a number of layers in enterprise applications that are up for grabs. If Microsoft can get CIOs to believe that there is no opportunity cost – in terms of limited Enterprise 2.0 capabilities – in implementing Sharepoint across the enterprise, that’s a significant win. Today’s announcements significantly bolster the cause.
This announcement shows that Microsoft is increasingly willing to partner in order to create compelling offerings for its clients. As IBM recognized many years ago, even the largest companies cannot stand alone – effective collaboration is fundamental to success in a networked economy.
Future Exploration Network is running an Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum in Sydney on 19 February 2008, where we will explore these kinds of issues in far more detail. More on the forum soon, and I’ll be posting quite a lot more on Enterprise 2.0 issues over coming months.
Other useful coverage of the announcements: