Enterprises see the value in collaboration software, but they are demanding more answers about its usefulness as a strategic tool at a time when the market for point products is shrinking and features
are being absorbed into applications and software infrastructure.
IT managers are looking for insight about the total cost of ownership of collaboration platforms, which vendors should be on their short list and where is the market heading overall, said Erica Rugullies, a senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., market research firm.
"They are choosing a platform and asking everyone [in their organization] to use that platform," Rugullies said. "It's expensive to maintain point products, and a platform can reduce operating costs."
Rugullies offered a list of trends in collaboration to look for in 2005.
- Collaboration features will move into the infrastructure. IBM Lotus, Microsoft, Oracle Corp. and SAP AG are all integrating collaborative elements into their overall architectures. At Microsoft, Windows SharePoint Services is now part of the Windows Server 2003 operating system, for example.
- Microsoft will emerge as an early platform leader. Rugullies cited product lifecycle management vendor UGS Corp., Plano, Texas, and collaboration software vendor CorasWorks Corp., McLean, Va., as just two examples of ISVs that are building their software on top of Windows SharePoint Services. She also predicted that in two or three years, "SharePoint will be virtually everywhere." Rugullies also said Microsoft's Exchange messaging platform has benefited from customer confusion about the IBM Lotus Workplace platform. "Uncertainty has led them to move off of Domino and onto Microsoft," she said. "But the same thing could happen in a few years with [Microsoft's] Longhorn. Exchange runs on a relational database. How many jump ship will depend on how big Microsoft's mindshare becomes."
- IBM and Oracle will expend great energy to keep up. IBM will bring out Lotus Workplace version 3.0 in mid-2005. Oracle plans to launch its Oracle Collaboration Suite 10g version 3.0 in early 2005.
- Application vendors are enriching collaboration features. Infrastructure services vendors are building team collaboration features on top of integrated document management features. Product lifecycle management vendors are offering team collaboration and real-time collaboration as integrated collaborative product development features, she said.
- Tension will develop between application and infrastructure providers. Rugullies said application and infrastructure vendors are trying to provide users with contextual collaboration but they are going about it in different ways. Application vendors sell proprietary collaboration features that work only in the context of specific applications and are not interoperable with external tools. Infrastructure vendors are pushing collaboration into their stacks and encouraging customers and ISVs to build applications on top, she said. She predicted that in five to eight years, most application vendors will have replaced their proprietary tools with support for collaboration infrastructure.
- Businesses will swap out point products for collaborative suites. More companies today are developing an enterprise strategy and choosing an enterprise collaboration platform. As they do this, they will reduce the number of point products they are using.
- Expect more market consolidation. Point product specialists will exit the market. Remaining specialists include Centra Software Inc., CollabraSpace Inc., Groove Networks Inc., Jive Software Inc., Ramius Corp., SiteScape Inc. and WebEx Communications Inc.
- The standards outlook in murky. Don't expect any strides with collaboration standards such as Session Initiation Protocol, SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions and the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol. Rugullies predicts that de facto standards will emerge courtesy of the leading collaboration software market leaders.
- Interoperability issues are looming. Microsoft, IBM and Oracle are building out their collaboration platforms and trying to woo as many converts as they can, with little or no regard for interoperability between their platforms, Rugullies said. A new category of integration software may emerge to build bridges between these platforms, she said.