Google recently started taking steps to tailor their Google+ social networking site into one that Apps users can use to improve productivity and collaboration among their employees.
Even though moves towards ESN integration is welcome for the Apps collaboration suite, the search engine giant may want to step up the pace in order to keep up with the rapidly growing demand for ESN, which is only expected to intensify in the coming years.
ESN software basically allows Twitter and Facebook-like functionality tailored for workplace use, including employee profiles, microblogging, content rating, activity streams, and online communities.
The spending on ESN products is growing by leaps and bounds, exhibiting a 40 percent increase last year amounting to $767.4 USD, and it is estimated that it will continue to increase at the compound rate of 42 percent through 2016, reaching almost $4.5 billion.
Microsoft has recently acquired ESN vendor Yammer to the tune of $1.2 billion and is expected to boost their enterprise social collaboration capabilities in SharePoint, Dynamics, Office, and other Microsoft Products.
Cisco, VMware, and IBM have also recently incorporated ESN components to their own enterprise collaboration suites, with Salesforce.com and Oracle following suite. There is also a healthy ecosystem of pure-play ESN vendors such as NewsGator, Telligent, and Jive Software.
Even though Apps was launched back in 2006, work on ESN component was only started last year when Apps administrators gained the ability to include Google+ apps in their suites. Google has also included a basic set of IT controls that will let administrators set companywide restriction settings for Google+ posts and multiparty video conferencing via the Hangouts feature. Said controls are accessible to users of the Government, Business, and Education editions of Apps. End users also have the ability to mark their posts as restricted, which prevents it from being re-shared outside of the organization’s domain. This integration mirrors Hangouts’ initial integration with both Gmail and the Docs office application for both Apps and consumer users in the past.
However, within the context of ESN software, the capabilities are simply not enough. Simply being able to post private comments is basically just a private Google+. Fortunately, a Google official confirmed that more features are on the way, and that they are just getting started.
As a matter of fact, Google made it a point that the initial launch of Google+ enterprise features is nothing more than a “preview” that administrators can choose to enable for their end users with no additional charge a the moment. It still lacks key features, particularly an activity stream in Google+ profiles where employee notifications of their actions are displayed.
Google’s mistake right now is their silence about their road map and plans, as enterprise IT professionals need clear statements of commitment and direction from vendors. This is especially bad considering that Apps components were all started as consumer applications, which have futures and development that are tied to their popularity among end users.
Google+ is considered by many industry observers as on shaky ground, as it has yet to fulfill Google’s popularity expectations among end users, and Google has never been one to shy away from axing products that they consider unpopular, outdated, or redundant. Google right now is failing to show any traction in the consumer space, so it doesn’t look like Google may want to continue investing in it as an enterprise-only product.