There are a number of vendors trying to determine the best way to increase adoption for enterprise social tools – but no one has yet found a more compelling proposition than giving a product away for free. It’s a sad reality that, despite the continual evangelism by proponents of the “social enterprise”, enterprise social tools are yet to truly be on the radar of CIOs as a “must have” piece of technology – it’s for that reason that vendors seek a bottom-up adoption model by allowing limited sized teams to use the product for free.
Socialcast, a social network vendor that was acquired by VMware last year is but the latest to make this move – Socialcast will now be free to small business and enterprise departments with less than 50 users. Unlike some vendors however who offer limited functionality tools as a freemium model, this is the fully featured Socialcast product. With this product – organizations that fall under the maximum size will be able to create shared online workspaces (either internal-only or mixed internal/external), build groups around topic or project areas and access the product from a full range of mobile devices.
In talking up the move, Tim Young from VMware said that;
Limited products don’t deliver on the potential of enterprise social. We don’t want people to have anything but the best experience with their communities. Now we’re able to offer companies of all sizes enterprise social networks that employees will love to use, and with the confidence their data is secure
The final comment about data security is a typical corporate ploy designed to sow a seed of doubt in users minds about smaller providers. Amusingly until only a year ago Socialcast was one of these smaller vendors that VMware would have cast doubt about – amazing what a difference an acquisition can make!
Social enterprise is hard. Despite the passion with which salesforce CEO Marc Benioff evangelizes the value of social, its adoption is still only miniscule when compared to the number of enterprises out in the Marketplace. By giving a product away for free, Socialcast has the ability to land and expand – to get organizations appreciating the value that social collaboration tools can bring and expanding that use beyond the free product.
The move is also a tacit admission that simply branding a social tool with the VMware moniker doesn’t guarantee success – this is especially so given the apparent disconnect between VMware’s office productivity acquisitions (Zimbra, Sliderocket and Socialcast) with VMware’s core business (selling of infrastructure tools). When VMware first announced the Sliderocket and Socialcast acquisitions I personally expected to see a broadening of this software play by the company – that hasn’t really happened and these products feels like orphans within the VMware operation.
By moving to a freemium model, Socialcast is sure to pick up a few more customers, but I can’t help but think that to ensure real adoption VMware needs to come up with a consistent story that sees software articulated holistically – simply having an email, a presentation and a collaboration product in the portfolio won’t really do it.
(Cross-posted @ The Diversity Blog - SaaS, Cloud & Business Strategy)