I spent the last few days at the Fall Enterprise 2.0 conference in Santa Clara. The conference was well attended and there was good energy throughout. While the e2.0 conference is well established I think that it is in many ways a conference in transition, much like the term e2.0 itself. Many of the exhibiting / sponsoring vendors are now messaging the term social business as a representation of the expanded focus on the both the internal and external and the connection between them. This is the growing trend and I for 1 welcome this broadening of focus. The other trend, which is also welcome, is the focus on doing much more so than debating and defining. That a sure sign of maturity in my book and the most attended and highest rated sessions had a practical side to them that spilled over into the hallway and reception conversations as well.
As good evidence of the trend to include both the internal collaborative solutions from the e2.0 world and the outward facing customer solutions of social CRM, the conference added a track devoted to SCRM chaired by two of the true SCRM thought leaders, Paul Greenberg and Sameer Patel. From a social business perspective SCRM has led the way, partly because many companies feel the pressure to deal with the growing number of social customers in new and engaging ways and partly because during tough economic times companies easily see benefit in customer and prospect facing initiatives. e2.0 is learning much from SCRM I think, particularly in the areas of using peer to peer communities to create engagement and generate highly leveragable social content. The SCRM track sessions were filled with great lessons from the field which resonated with the audiences.
Another track that seemed to generate a lot of interest was the Community Development and Management track chaired by Rachel Happe and Ted Hopton. Certainly community is one of the key tools in both the e2.0 and the SCRM toolkit so there is a great deal of interest in continuing to build and improve the growing profession of community manager. As a fast growth and still fairly new occupation there is always a thirst for practical skills development and practical knowledge sharing.
These conferences provide a great opportunity to catch up with companies that I've followed closely over the last few years and this time was no exception. Here are a few highlights from those meetings:
- Newsgator: I had a chance to get some hands on with its newest edition app build as a front end and social extension to Microsoft Sharepoint. Sharepoint has continued to see rapid growth and is a very popular content management and file centric collaboration tool. In the lastest version 2010, Microsoft added a "social connector" but frankly is a long way from providing a social, people centric collaborative experience. This is where Newsgator shines and for me, this is one of the few ways I'd want to deploy Sharepoint at least as a collaboration tool. The user experience is excellent and very web 2.0ish. If you want to kick up your productivity with your Sharepoint installation I'd suggest you take a look.
- Moxie: Moxie is the latest incarnation of an idea I first discussed with serial entrepreneur Steve Papermaster at some conference over three years ago (I remember the conversation but I guess I've been to so many conferences since then that the exact one escapes me). At that time he and I both thought something was starting to happen in the enterprise that would turn into a significant business opportunity as web 2.0 like functionality coupled with the rise of the social customer and employee moved into the enterprise. We were both pretty early in our thoughts but still it was a great discussion. Fast forward three years and the ideas have evolved a great deal from Steve's first relaunch of BSG Alliances to NGenera to the rebranding and launch of Moxi this year. Moxi, with it's social business spaces product and services offering is clearly an up and coming player in a market that is quickly gaining momentum.
- Jive Software: I've spent a fair bit of time in the past year talking about Jive and its broadening to a complete social business solution so I won't rehash that this time. Instead I had a chance to catch up with its new CMO, Lynda Smith and get a better perspective on the progress they are making in the market. Probably the best news is that the prospect list has expanded away from just early adopters and is now moving towards more traditional companies and verticals. From my own work with end users I'd mirror that observation as I see the momentum of social business expand into the mainstream.
- IBM Lotus Connections: I should confess that it's been quite a while since I had the chance to catch up with the Lotus Connections team even though IBM is the clear leader from a revenue perspective in the social platforms market. I had a great discussion and I will dig into what they're doing much more deeply over the next few weeks. From a customer perspective they confirmed to me that they are also seeing social business move into the mainstream and that there is significant momentum across all business and industry types. To date IBM's largest deployment of Lotus Connections is over 380,000 users and many of its customers are over 100,000 users so far. There is strong interest in deploying activity streams and the flexibility of the products are a draw as no one size fits all. From a product perspective release 3.0 incorporates a lot of socialytic capabilities and has moved beyond the "search on steroids" approach to analytics and provides more individualized analytic capabilities leveraging work done in the IBM research labs. IBM customers are expanding the use of communities from just inside employee based implementations to reach out into the customer facing side of the business. Lastly 3.0 incorporates what they're calling social anywhere with features embedded in other applications like Cognos analytics and also supporting multiple device mobile access (iPhone, Android, iPad, iPod Touch).
- Neudesic Pulse: I just recently started getting acquainted with Neudesic, a long time Microsoft partner, and I found their product, Pulse, to be an interesting addition to the activity stream market. Like Newsgator it integrates with Sharepoint and puts a more social face on that product. Pulse also integrates with Microsoft CRM so if you are currently a MS CRM customer or are planning a deployment Pulse can add significant functionality across your business. One of the features I found particularly useful was the ability to build Twitter like lists and follow them in lieu of following individuals. These lists aggregate conversations and give users another way to filter and manage the growing information glut.
- Novell Vibe: I've been a fan of Novell's activity stream product, formerly called Pulse, since I did some consulting with the team almost two years ago. This week Novell announced the rebranding / renaming of the product to Vibe, the merging of their integrated collaborative environments product and the movement of that new product into public beta. The new product is even more interesting and I think adds some very useful functionality to an already great product. I hope this weeks announcement will be followed by a more aggressive sales and marketing campaign for the Vibe product, now is the time for social vendors to grab market share.
I also had the pleasure to moderate a panel session on Wed titled "Social is Evil". This topic, managing risk and compliance in the new social enterprise is very timely and the session garnered a lot on interest. The panelists were a diverse group including an attorney, John Pavolotsky of Greenberg Traurig, two executives from network security vendors, John Burnham, VP of Marketing for Q1 Labs and David Rowe, CEO of NetVision and a social practitioner Jae Kim, Director of Social Media strategy for Facetime Communications. Some of the best practices discussed included:
- Every business needs a clearly defined social policy that covers how employees can use enterprise and consumer social tools, proper behavior on public social networks and communities, IP protection guidelines,and the extension of HR policies like harassment to the online environment.
- Having a social policy isn't enough, you have to train employees on the policy and include that training in the regular onboarding process.
- Businesses are being naive if they believe they can block access to all social tools. They may control the network but they cannot control employees use of mobile devices to access and use social network and media sites while at work.
- Employees will do what it takes to get their job done and today that includes using social tools. Better as a business to sort out a corporate strategy and policy; and educate the employees on that policy than to try and prevent or block its use.
Thanks to everyone who attended the session, the audience participation was some of the best I've seen in a panel session and I even had to open up to audience questions 10 or so minutes earlier than planned as they were literally jumping up and down to participate.
All in all this e2.0 was a good experience and offered a lot of value. The acknowledgement of the blending of SCRM and e2.0 into social business is a reality and its good to see that approach expanding for the conference. I suspect you're see that trend continue in Boston next spring.