Forrester released a report today about the 'community platforms' market. They evaluated nine vendors, concluding that Jive Software and Telligent Systems "lead the pack because of their strong administrative and platform features." KickApps and Pluck were also commended, for enabling large Web sites to scale quickly with social features. Awareness, Lithium Technologies, and Mzinga were other products that Forrester liked, for enabling companies to build branded communities. We summarize the report below and highlight our own past coverage of Jive Software and Telligent.

Communities have been a staple of the web 2.0 era and over the past few years a lot of enterprise community products have come onto the market. The Forrester report, authored by Jeremiah Owyang, notes that even in this down economy there is still demand for online community platforms - because they are a cost-effective way for companies to market their products and reduce support costs. Overall, Forrester identified more than 90 vendors who offer community platforms and services - although Owyang notes that it's "still a very young market". 9 of the 90-odd were profiled in the report. They were: Awareness, Jive, KickApps, Leverage, Lithium, LiveWorld, Mzinga, Pluck, and Telligent.

Forrester singled out 2 vendors that are particularly strong: Jive Software and Telligent. The report noted that both have platforms that are easy to deploy and use.

Jive Software

Jive Software has a large customer base of more than 2,500 customers, including brands like Intel, Kraft Foods, and Nike. The report noted that Jive's user interface was "intuitive".

ReadWriteWeb has profiled Portland-based Jive Software a couple of times recently. Last April we reported on Jive's enterprise collaboration suite Clearspace. We noted that the service takes on Microsoft's Sharepoint with a feature set that looks like something many consumer software users would be envious of. At the time we thought that a USAToday quote was particularly apt: "Jive Software wants to be the Apple Computer of corporate social networks." In July 2008, we reported on ClearStep - an online community for businesses that we thought could deliver very real value to potential Jive customers.

We've also commented favorably in the recent past about Jive's promotion of XMPP (called Jabber in IM) - for powering communication services hosted in the cloud. The company included the first XMPP-powered document sharing and collaboration tool in the 2.0 release of its Clearspace.

Telligent

Dallas-based Telligent was commended by Forrester for its analytics features, because they "empower marketers to understand what's going on in their branded communities." Back in June, ReadWriteWeb noted that Telligent was one of a number of companies to offer integration with Microsoft SharePoint - perhaps the most-used collaboration platform in the enterprise. We noted that Telligent's Community Server Evolution platform uses its REST API, mail gateway, shared authentication and single sign-on, to integrate with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, Microsoft Exchange Server, and Microsoft Active Directory.

Over on Jobwire, ReadWriteWeb's channel dedicated to news about job hires in the tech and media industry, we've also picked up on a couple of recent hires at Telligent. In November it hired former Microsoft Senior Research Sociologist Marc Smith, then in December it appointed former Palm CEO Carl Yankowski to its board of directors. So things appear to be going well for Telligent, even in the current economy.

Conclusion

One of the report's findings is that community platform providers must do more than offer a technology platform. Indeed Jeremiah Owyang says that "the technology is a commodity." The top providers, according to Forrester, "not only offer a strong technology platform but also provide services, support, and analytics offerings." Owyang elaborated that companies want "a solutions vendor that delivers strategy, education, services, community management, analytics and support - beyond just rss and discussion boards."

What the report didn't address was how relatively small vendors such as Jive and Telligent are competing against the likes of Microsoft SharePoint, IBM's Lotus SameTime and Lotus Connections, and even the open source software Drupal - which is very popular with developers in the enterprise. Check out Dion Hinchcliffe's top 10 list of community platforms for other options.

Update: Jeremiah Owyang notes in the comments to this post: "Some of the vendors you mention actually don't fit the use case that I was writing for: which is external communities for the interactive marketer -- NOT the internal intranet. Also, it's important to note that there is a clear difference between community software and collaboration software -- they are two different use cases." See also Jeremiah's blog post.

It's very hard to see how the enterprise community platform market can support 90 vendors, but we're pleased to see that innovative smaller companies like Jive and Telligent are footing it with the bigcos in this competitive landscape. Now please tell us which community platforms you use in your company and/or which ones have impressed you recently.