NewsGator gets a new CEO

The enterprise social networking vendor has appointed Daniel Kraft as CEO, replacing J.B. Holston

NewsGator, the maker of the popular SharePoint enterprise social networking add-on Social Sites, has appointed a new CEO that the board and his predecessor expect will guide the company to its next phase of growth.

Daniel Kraft has been named CEO and president, replacing J.B. Holston, who was at the helm since 2004 and will become the company's chairman of the board.

Kraft initially linked up with NewsGator as a consultant via his company ifridge & Co., which provides management services and business strategy advice, usually to companies with under 100 employees. Holston said it was his idea to bring Kraft on board as his replacement.

Kraft joins NewsGator at a time when questions about the company's future have been raised, after Microsoft recently bought Yammer, a competitor.

NewsGator made a decision back in 2007 that its flagship product Social Sites would be designed specifically to work with SharePoint, Microsoft's collaboration, content management and intranet product.

Among enterprise social networking products, Social Sites is widely considered to be one of the most tightly integrated with SharePoint. Social Sites has 4 million paid seats and hundreds of Fortune 2000 customers. The client roster includes JP Morgan Chase, Kraft Foods, Adidas, General Mills, Ericsson and Barclays.

However, it's widely expected that Microsoft will progressively fuse Yammer's technology with SharePoint over the coming years, so it's not clear if that will eventually reduce Social Sites' value and relevance.

Asked about this, Kraft said that NewsGator will continue cementing Social Sites' "tremendous standing in the Microsoft ecosystem" while seeking to expand the product's scope, specifically to SAP and Oracle enterprise applications.

This effort would build upon existing integration between Social Sites and other third-party software, including Salesforce.com's CRM-related Chatter enterprise social networking tool and Microsoft's Dynamics CRM.

The idea is to allow users to manage processes from those third-party applications within Social Sites, so that they can take action on them, generate notifications to colleagues, collaborate with them in online communities and discussion forums and the like.

"Our API architecture already supports that two-way interactivity," Holston said. "It's not so much a technical issue but a question of how those [third-party application] processes work and where and how to liberate them with Social Sites."

Kraft said that NewsGator may also look for companies it can acquire, and that it will also consider expanding Social Sites' cloud functionality.

Currently, Social Sites is designed to work best either installed behind the firewall on customer premises or in dedicated hosted servers, and not in a multi-tenant cloud environment like Yammer's software.

Kraft, an ifridge managing partner, is bringing two other ifridge colleagues with him to NewsGator: Stefanie Lightman, also an ifridge managing partner, will be corporate strategy senior vice president at NewsGator, and Markus von Aschoff, an ifridge director, is joining as vice president of product management.

Kraft, Lightman and von Aschoff will transition from their duties at ifridge and devote 100 percent of their time to NewsGator, while remaining stakeholders at ifridge. Although ifridge also takes equity stakes in some of the companies it consults for, it isn't investing in NewsGator.

Earlier in his career, Kraft was senior vice president of corporate strategy at Open Text, as well as president and CEO at RedDot Solutions.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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