On Friday’s I’ll be reviewing a vendor in the emergent collaboration space and will provide an overview on that vendor which includes aspects from leadership and vision to technology and market focus. If you are vendor that would like to participate, please contact me (email is in the sidebar as is the twitter link). The goal of these posts is not to bash or praise vendors but to simply offer an objective view on what various vendors offer so that YOU can decide if they are a good fit for your business. Every post will cover the same elements for different vendors. If you have ideas or recommendations for other items to be covered in these posts then please let me know and I will consider them.
This week I’m taking a look at Qontext. Founded in 1998, Pramati Technologies is the parent company. Qontext officially launched in the U.S. in 2010. Pramati, the parent company, staffs over 400 employees and has headquarters Mountain View, Hyberabad, and Channai. I spoke with Samir Ghosh, the VP of business development and strategy.
Qontext integrates with several vendors such as Sugar CRM, Salesforce, Netsuite, HRNet, Leadformix, Intel, and Herald Logic with more on the way. Qontext also offers an instant out-of-the-box social layer for any web based app via bookmarklets. Qontext integration is a bit unique because unlike most vendors which pull in other systems into theirs, Qontext does a reverse type of integration where they go into other systems instead, this is done with just a few lines of code (but can also pull data into their platform as well). Qontext also features a desktop client which I haven’t seen to many other vendors offer.
Customers get free email support and each community also has it’s own forum where they can ask questions directly to Qontext. Premium support is also available at an additional charge and this includes phone support during business hours at your local timezone.
Qontext runs between $2-$7/user/month (premium support is an additional $2/user/month and is based on annual contracts). Each deployment has four default roles: admin, professional, foundation, and guest (listed in order of greatest->lowest functionality). Foundation licences are $2/user/month, pro/admin are $5/user/month an guests are free (for example partners, suppliers, or customers). To integrate with additional applications (such as CRM or ERP) is an extra $2/user/month. So you can see on the low end a foundation user without any integration is $2/user/month whereas a pro/admin account with integration into other systems runs $7/user/month. I should also point out that discounts are available with larger deployments.
Qontext can be deployed as a multi-tenant Saas, dedicated SaaS, or on-premise (which usually run around 150% of the annual SaaS license and an annual 20% maintenance fee).
Maintenance & Upgrades
Qontext provides quarterly major upgrades with smaller patches in between The cloud model has no fees for any types of upgrades. These updates and upgrades come from a mix of customer feedback and the strategic direction roadmap of the company.
Overall direction/strategic vision for the company
Qontext does not want to boil the ocean here, they just want to be the social layer that sits on top of other applications. It’s kind of like a “skeleton key” for collaboration that wants to be able to fit into any other system of record or application to add that social component. To help with that Qontext at this point is aggressively working on partnerships.
As far as where Qontext believes the industry is going they are of the mindset that social is definitely here to stay but that for the first time organizations are finally able to collaborate in more effective ways than simply using email. Smart organizations are realizing that the democratization of hierarchies must happen and to do this they must leverage these emergent technologies. Top managers at organizations need to learn how to get out of the way of employees. Qontext also believes that we will see a consolidated suite of collaboration tools akin to the desktop productivity wars we saw in the 90’s where users needed an integrated suite rather than too many point solutions.
Key differentiating factors from competition
- Integration into other systems (collaboration in other platforms not other platforms coming to Qontext).
- Document management: versioning, check-in/out, notification upon check-in, previews, click-to-edit, Microsoft Office and OpenOffice integration
- Enterprise grade: (on-prem and cloud hosting, ) active directory and LDAP integration, scalability, security, and customizability
- Internal and external capabilities
Qontext allows users to control skinning, HTML, CSS, widgets and form fields, navigaton and pretty much anything else such as roles.
Time to go live
Qontext can be ready to go live pretty much as soon as the company is ready to deploy it. This can be the same day or several months. Currently the largest demployment is around 50k seats and some are much smaller, under 5 (free for five users or less).
Mainly built on JAVA, SAS 70 type II compliant, on-premise and cloud, comprehensive REST API, LDAP and AD (Microsoft Active Directory) integrated, and webDAV compliant.
Used across the board from banking to logistics to sales and marketing to IT and engineering. Qontext is being used by anyone who wants to collaborate better and realizes the shortcomings of using email alone.
Capabilities (customer, partner, employee collaboration)
Customer, partner, and employee
The fact that Qontext has a parent company behind it with the funds and resources to help it grow and evolve is definitely a positive. This is something that is a concern for many larger companies seeking to deploy collaboration tools from smaller or less-known vendors. But that fact that Qontext has a larger staff than Jive, Yammer, and most other collaboration vendors is going to be a bit of a comforting factor for some decision makers. Those of you who have seen some of the collaboration vendors out there today will all agree that features are becoming commoditized, in other words they all look like and do pretty much the same thing.
I think the most unique thing about Qontext is it’s two-way integration, meaning that instead of bringing in other systems and data into Qontext, Qontext actually can sit within other applications. The traditional approach has always been to pull in information from an application such as Netsuite and collaborate on it within Qontext, then that information syncs back to Netsuite. But now employees using Netsuite will see an additional social/collaboration layer built right inside of it so that they never need to leave the application. It’s definitely an interesting approach but it still does not solve the problem of creating a single source of truth around work. In other words employees will still need to access multiple platforms to get their job done but the benefit is that they will now have collaborative features build into all of these platforms. Thankfully Qontext also offers the ability to pull in data and information into their platform, a much more traditional approach we are seeing today.
I wish I could have learned more about the strategic vision and direction of Qontext as a company but the information I was given was a bit limited. To me it sounded like their focus at this point is going to be on marketing and awareness but I’m still unclear as to where they see themselves within the collaborative landscape and where they want to go in the future, perhaps they themselves are in the process of figuring this out themselves.
It looks like Qontext at this point is focusing on mid, mid-large, size organizations but haven’t cracked the mega companies yet. From speaking with various vendors I don’t typically hear Qontext being brought up as a direct competitor or finalist but perhaps we will see that change in 2012 as they begin to focus more on awareness and partnerships.
If you want to learn more about Qontext make sure to visit their site at www.qontext.com.