Social Sites 3.5 also gives administrators the capability to centrally configure users' Lookout interface by, for example, adding a view that everybody in the company or in a department must have.
Social Sites 3.5 works both with the existing SharePoint 2010 and with the new SharePoint 2013 that is due for release this quarter. SharePoint 2010 users can upgrade to Social Sites 3.5 right away, but NewsGator recommends that SharePoint 2013 users wait until the official release of that version.
Kellner also said that NewsGator is working on linking Social Sites to Office 365, Microsoft's cloud-hosted collaboration and email suite for businesses, which includes SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online. Currently, Social Sites is designed to work best either installed behind the firewall on customer premises or in dedicated hosted servers.
Microsoft already bundles in Yammer with the versions of Office 365 that include SharePoint Online.
ESN suites like Social Sites and Yammer give businesses social media applications similar to the ones in Facebook, Google and Twitter but adapted for workplace use and providing IT controls. Typical ESN functionality includes employee profiles, activity streams, microblogging, wikis, discussion forums, document sharing, online communities, brainstorming software, blogs and content tagging, rating and review.
Increasingly, these ESN suites are being integrated with line-of-business applications, like email clients, ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications, CRM (customer relationship management) software, unified communications products and office productivity suites.
The promise of ESN tools is to improve communication and collaboration among employees, and in some cases with partners and customers, by giving users familiar social media capabilities in a workplace setting.
While demand for ESN software has been growing strongly in recent years, Gartner recently predicted that through 2015, an alarming 80 percent of social business efforts will fail to achieve their intended benefits, due to "inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology."
Gartner recommends that, to avoid failure, organizations first identify how these enterprise social projects will enhance work practices, which in turn requires a deep understanding and often a transformation of how people work and interact.
Underscoring the rising popularity of ESN suites, Gartner also predicted that by 2016, 50 percent of large organizations will have internal ESNs, of which 30 percent will be considered "as essential as email and telephones are today."