As Peter Kim alludes, social media technologies and tactics are subordinate (by a long shot) to business relationship goals. That said, it’s reaffirming to see that Forrester Analyst Jeremiah Owyang‘s evaluation of online community technology platforms rated Telligent Systems as among the top two. Our team at Clickable last year adopted Telligent’s Community Server to power our customer communities and team blog. Not surprising, I have some comments on this study, the community platform market in general, and Telligent, specifically. (Telligent graciously forked over the license fee so it could offer the report to everyone for free on its Web site.)
Community Platform Conundrum: Agency Versus Pure Product
Despite the immaturity, we evaluated nine and were impressed with Jive Software and Telligent Systems who lead the pack because of their strong administrative and platform features and solution offerings….we applied over 60% of our weighted criteria based on what our clients tell us they want, a solutions partner that delivers strategy, education, services, community management, analytics and support.
The customer “wants” of strategy, education and services make sense, but they concern me and it’s important to unpack them further.Â Here’s why: those are typically agency and professional services attributes. If you speak with veteran entrepreneurs across technology and professional services, one thing is clear: a company CANNOT SIMULTANEOUSLY BE a product-technology company and a professional services company. You have to be primarily one or the other because there’s a conflict of agenda. The agency mindset is to deliver highly customized solutions for individual customers. But too often long-term product innovations and investments suffer because the model is biased to reward the customized services versus a better, scalable product. There are some hybrids, but they are rare. Many of the most successful technology companies are, in fact, agencies — once you look under the hood or into the books.
Why We Selected Telligent: Because It’s Really A Platform ‘Product’
At my company, we selected Telligent precisely because it was a proven, robust workhorse, powering many of the highest trafficked communities. But we also selected Telligent because it was a product company — NOT an agency with proprietary technologies that form the root of a consulting shop. For us, Telligent was the platform that seemed most likely to work out of the box, scale, iterate and improve according to customer feedback, and stay in business.
I underscore “stay in business” because we’re likely to see most of the community platforms go defunct and retreat into a pool of consolidating agencies; there are just too many of them with little differentiation. The differentiation most often is on flavor of strategy consulting, and that’s a fundamentally separate offering (and one we didn’t want). This was foreshadowed by Jeremiah:
Many an entrepreneur has realized this community opportunity, when I started to cover this market there were 8 vendors on my list, today the space now boasts 100 vendors and it continues to grow.
I believe this Forrester Wave report will not only drive discussion of the enterprise community platform market, but will accelerate the inevitable classification of winners, losers, agencies, and pure product companies — not to mention those consolidations.
How Telligent Can Improve
But Telligent is not perfect. I wish Telligent would figure out a way to broaden and open-source it’s developer and app community the way WordPress blog platform has. Hey Telligent, if you’re listening, try to be more like WordPress! You’re stable and scalable, but we need faster innovation and more plug-in and play capabilities. Hopefully that recent $20 million cash infusion from Intel Capital will help. If anything, it will ensure their existence over the next few economically challenging years.