According to vendor-independent analyst firm CMS Watch, a general lack of system and administrative services threatens to undermine the benefits of improved collaboration and networking from social software technologies.

CMS Watch notes that social software technology categories include platform offerings, stand-alone suites, viable ‘pure-play’ blog and wiki tools, public networks like Facebook, and ‘white-label’ community services like Ning, Pluck and Lithium.

“Once you get beyond the experimental or pilot stage, certain services like configuration management, information lifecycle management, clustering, back-up, multi-instance management, and internationalization become critical to long-term application viability,” says CMS Watch founder Tony Byrne. “Yet, those are the very areas where most social software tools, even ones from established vendors, fail customer expectations.”

Byrne’s comments are based on a recent CMS Watch study’s findings that evaluated 20 major social software suppliers through extensive technology research and customer interviews.

Study results

Results from the CMS Watch study were not encouraging. While enterprise customers showed increasing interest in extending internal social tools outside the firewall, vendors had difficulty supporting customers’ internal and external environments at the same time.

CMS Watch attributes the problem to significantly different functional, performance, and security profiles of both environments.

While heavyweights like Microsoft, Oracle and IBM have actively promoted their social software products, each arrived relatively late in this market segment. Consequently, such vendors still rely on established portal services for key functionalities, CMS Watch says.

Silver linings

Despite the gloomy study results, CMS Watch notes some exceptions such as wiki vendor Atlassian that provides comparatively strong security and access control. The analyst firm says that hosted community vendor Awareness has good multi-site management; while Connectbeam’s social networking solution provides highly functional back-up and restoration services.

“Customers should not automatically assume that social software modules from their incumbent vendors are somehow more mature or better integrated than some of the smaller players in this space,” says CMS Watch research analyst, Jarrod Gingras.

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