Today SaaS CRM vendor RightNow announced its intent to acquire HiveLive, a full featured social software platform for ~$6M in cash. OK, this isn't Oracle announcing that it's buying Sun and I suppose it would be easy to skip over this one but I think this move by RightNow is interesting on several levels. There's the obvious good news that HiveLive's solution adds robust social CRM capabilities to RightNow's already strong customer service offerings...more on that in a minute. The other not so obvious thing though is the nagging thought that this could be the start of an acquisition frenzy among established software vendors that need to add significant social capabilities to their products or risk losing an edge with emerging social businesses and their need for enterprise class social solutions. There's a lot of innovation happening in the many enterprise social software start ups that I've looked at recently, the same kind of innovation that end users are starting to look for. Some of the larger software vendors are starting to build out some social capabilities but for a real jump start they will most likely look to the current innovative start ups which are, I might add, very reasonably priced in our current economic environment (and not likely to get any cheaper).
So what does HiveLive bring to RightNow? It should be no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that I think enterprise social solutions are rapidly gaining in importance and creating a real opportunity for businesses to transform the way they do business. This opportunity is especially strong and provides high potential for value to businesses in the customer facing functions from sales and marketing to product marketing / management and customer service. The social web is bringing about a sorts of changes in consumer / customer behavior that are today outside the boundaries for most businesses. Conversations happen about brands in online destinations but can you listen or respond to them? Customers are relying on their trusted social networks for product and support advice. Their turning to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. to express themselves. RightNow has the opportunity of integrating a social platform tightly into its customer service, sales and marketing CRM solutions so that the social world of the web can be linked to a companies CRM processes. If the integration is complete (the press release sets November '09 for the availability of the "tightly" integrated solution) the new solution could be very interesting to businesses who are looking to change and improve the way they interact with their customers. HiveLive's platform could enable:
- Customer communities for customer to customer support
- Communities for creating innovation: crowdsourcing or ideasourcing new product ideas and product improvements
- Incorporate blogs and wiki's as a part of the customer experience and to foster dialog and engagement
- Use wiki type functionality to enhance RightNow's knowledge base offering through incorporating user generated content
- Facilitating a customer loyalty program that could include communities or social networks
- Self-managed customer groups
- Content sharing
- Social analytics tied to CRM analytics
It will be interesting to see the new, integrated CRM solution as the integration is completed. I also suspect we'll be seeing many more announcements in this "space" in the coming months.