In a world where new entrants are trying to break the near-hegemony that Microsoft SharePoint has in enterprise content management, the new generation of vendors is painfully aware that they are in a death race to build momentum. Revenue comes secondary to increasing the viral spread of their products in the expectation that whoever builds the best momentum is going to be an amazing money spinner and/or acquisition target.

With this in mind, it’s interesting to watch the initiative that these players take in order to get market share. Case in point today is the announcement from Huddle (more on them here) of their “Unlimited Enterprise” package which allows organizations to collaborate with people across their entire business ecosystem, consisting of internal teams as well as customers, partners, contractors and suppliers, for free.

This is a logical step when you consider that Huddle’s own customers display a massive amount of external sharing – they report that around 93% of their customers are using Huddle to collaborate not only within their own business but with external organizations also. This is a great functional area to target for two distinct reasons; As Huddle CEO Alastair Mitchell says;

…the modern enterprise relies on a wide network of external organizations to achieve its goals. Yet, traditional collaboration services, like SharePoint, lock information and people in silos. They were designed in a pre-internet era with the purpose of keeping content inside the firewall and the outside world, out. Consequently, no one uses them

This might be over-stating it a little, but it’s fair to say that there is immense frustration from users of SharePoint, and it’s this frustration that Huddle and its competitors are attempting to use to their own advantage.

  1. Traditional content management offerings are poor at external collaboration. As more and more organizations have an organic structure with loosely coupled project groups from both inside and outside the corporate walls, flexible external sharing becomes critical
  2. As a viral tool, giving organizations the ability to trial Huddle for free while working on an external project is an awesome way to spread knowledge and pick up new customers. It’s a viral sales strategy exemplified.

The Unlimited Enterprise plan is a cut down version of the full application – lite users can view or download files and comment on documents, files, whiteboards and discussions. The package also includes unlimited workspaces and API access, advanced customization options, full mobile access, data export, AD Integration and global support.

Alongside the Unlimited plan, Huddle is reacting to the concerns they hear from CIOs about moving to cloud services, and is launching a 99.9 per cent Uptimemoney-back guarantee. They are guaranteeing three 9’s uptime including any downtime for their 13 annual product releases and maintenance. Uptime is absolutely a concern for CIOs, however I’m not convinced that three 9’s will do it for them – most CIOs I speak to have had “five nines” drummed into them over a number of years and, aside from the fact that many of them don’t actually equate those figures to the actual duration of outages – they’re nonetheless looking for a check box to tick.

CIOs are also rapidly getting to the point of realizing that SLAs are very blunt instruments. Huddle for example is making mileage out of telling people that rather than offering service credits with their uptime guarantee, they are offering financial compensation in the form of refunds of license fees rather than service credits. For a multi billion dollar organization that could conceivable lose many millions of dollars from unscheduled downtime, the refund of license fees, while a nice gesture and all, is pretty much meaningless.

Overall Huddle is working hard to keep apace with its more well-known rival, Box.net. While it’s fair to say that box has attracted more attention (and funding), Huddle is in the interesting position of tapping both a US and a European market – it’s this dual approach that is giving it more momentum than it would have otherwise and these two new announcements will only help with that.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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