Workshare Inc. on Wednesday acquired IdeaPlane Ltd., which is an enterprise social networking startup focused on regulated industries.
Enterprise social networking products typically add customizable administration controls to Facebook-like clones, so that large organizations can obtain the benefits of knowledge sharing without the risks of being on consumer-grade or public systems.
IdeaPlane, in London, opened in 2010 in hopes of finding a professional services niche versus large players such as Google Sites, IBM Lotus, and Microsoft Yammer, which merged into e-discovery features of SharePoint. Workshare, in London, focuses on collaboration and metadata software.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. IdeaPlane's first customer was a large investment bank that wanted an on-premise server, but the company since developed a cloud approach, CEO James Fabricant explained. There are now two additional customers, one of which is a midsized U.K. law firm, along with Workshare and IdeaPlane using the service internally, he said.
"Clearly law firms are struggling with a lot of the same thing that every knowledge worker is dealing with, which is how to deal with the flood of email," Workshare CEO Anthony Foy said. "Even with a small organization like [Workshare], communication can be difficult across departments," he noted. From observing his employees using IdeaPlane, "You find that there are discussions that are happening more broadly … that you would find around the water cooler or the smokers that stand outside."
Workshare, which recently acquired by online storage provider SkyDox Ltd., intends to merge its product roadmap with IdeaPlane during the next 12 to 24 months, CEO Anthony Foy said. The name IdeaPlane will be replaced, Fabricant added.
Enterprise social networking is a $500 million market, technology analyst Richard Edwards at U.K.-based research firm Ovum said in October. InformationWeek in August listed 13 vital features of enterprise social networking products including analytic tools, directory integration, mobile access, and security.
Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Tom Petrocelli said his advice for law firms considering such producs is twofold. "One, look for features that support your business. In this case, free-form discussion may not be what you want. Instead look to the social workflows and document/file sharing aspects first," he said. "Second, make sure that the vendor has a solution for compliance and security. Given the need for privacy and managing client communications, it's important to understand how a vendor helps to manage risk compliance."