Okay, to recap. We've so far done the following watchlist parts:
Part I - The Big 4 - Microsoft, SAP, Oracle, salesforce.com
Part IIA - CRM Companies - NetSuite, Sage, RightNow
Part IIB - CRM Companies - Cognizant, Eloqua, Sword-Ciboodle, SAS, SugarCRM, Helpstream, Aplicor
Now we move on to Part IIIA and Part IIIB - The Social Companies and the Social Channels- though I'm not telling you who they are except in the posts themselves (nyah, nyah, nyah).
The Part III Plan
This is going to be my most eccentric set of selections because its a new group coming into an older world and making claims that they may or may not be able to support. That means that I'm going to look at social "entities." Companies that encompass community platforms, social business platforms, social networking platforms, and social media monitoring capabilities. Channels that have taken on the role of locations but locations with a CRM twist as we shall see. Do all the companies that I'm going to put on the watchlist meet the claim of being social CRM - no, but who gives a flying.... who cares? None of the companies nor any of the channels meet the criteria for a complete Social CRM technology suite. What they do provide is a more mature and sophisticated capability to support the engagement of customers than we've had in the past - which is the strategy that Social CRM supports. Though by no means are we in a mature market - puhleeze.
The Social Companies
In 2009, the social software vendors began to call themselves "Social CRM" enmasse and rather suddenly. I'm not 100% sure why but I have to speculate that there is a lot more money in calling oneself Social CRM than social media and it opens the way into an established $13 billion plus market. Plus strategically, it allows access to both major enterprise software vendors for partnerships and directly to larger enterprises. Social software originated on the consumer side but the market for them is on the business side - which they clearly are aware of and which will drive a different set of behaviors by them then they are used to (see PGreenblog for a companion piece on this topic here).
But that's speculative and not meant to be derogatory in any way. That is the reality and they were recognizing the reality of the marketplace.
However, that also created a good deal of confusion and some sadly overextended discussions on what was Social CRM (good for awhile and then not so good) and who was Social CRM and who wasn't. My "who" at this point is "who" cares?
There are several of the social vendors who make the Social CRM claim who are productively doing what they should to be part of the space. I've chosen five of them that I think make the grade and are doing everything they can to be worth watching in 2010. Just an FYI or disclosure if you'd like to call it that, I've had a consulting or thought leadership (meaning speaking at a a conference or writing a white paper) relationship with all of them except Lithium at some point. But then again, I've had a consulting or thought leadership relationship with almost all the CRM vendors at some point or another and with many companies who were scratched from the list or who appear in the "revisit" list. Believe me, as anyone who knows me knows, that has no impact on my thinking or what I'm saying here. No one is spared the honey or the jalapeño - if they deserve either or both of them.
Unlike the bulk of the companies on this watchlist, Lithium actually has done the right things from both a thought leadership and a marketing standpoint to position themselves as "a" Social CRM company (though I know they'd like to be "the" Social CRM company) and when it comes to creating a market presence the always charming and smart Sanjay Dholakia
, CMO of Lithium does a really good job. For example, if you remember earlier this year (and if you care at all), Lithium held the First Social CRM Virtual Summit
, essentially pulling a coup. They had a superpowered group of speakers at the event - so to speak - including, ahem, me; Brent Leary
; Ray Wang
: Jeremiah Owyang
; and Dr. Natalie Petouhoff
(all on my analysts all stars list) among others and they had a stellar attendance with 1300 folks, about 450 from outside the U.S. (Ahh, love
those virtual environments). Unlike many of the companies on either list, they don't have a problem marketing even though they might overreach when it comes to claiming #1 status. There is no one that has the right to that claim now. Just an FYI.
They also are well financed, having just received a Series C funding of $18 million U.S. which will provide them with a lot of latitude when it comes to building out their story including the products they need to deliver.
Coupled with their good marketing moves is a solid community platform.
First and foremost, because Lithium founder Lyle Fong was one of the world's greatest gamers, they have a gamer's paradigm which means they've got a terrific interface and scalability in their DNA.
While there is no time to get into the details of their product since I'd be writing the 5th edition of CRM at the Speed of Light to have the room to do that, I do want to talk about one product component. That would be CRM Connect which is their native connector for CRM systems, considered a part of their Social CRM suite. Lithium, I have to presume, used CRM Connect, when they integrated several years ago with RightNow. They not only provided the communities for RightNow customers etc. but also the community platform that RightNow used until their acquisition of HiveLive.
But and again, there is always a but, the integrations with CRM seemed to have stopped beyond the original RIghtNow partnership and the "usual" one with salesforce.com. There doesn't seem to be much other interaction with Lithium and the CRM community that I can see. This isn't meant to go to the strengths or weaknesses of CRM Connect. It might be a great product - or not - but it does go to their strategy here. If they are serious about their Social CRM effort, they need to be aggressively pursuing the more traditional CRM vendors, which is not visible to the naked eye at the moment.
Nor do I see them attempting to establish the partnerships for integrations with the social media monitoring tools like Radian6. Their own unstructured data monitoring and capture tools aren't particularly exceptional, so those integrations would be wise to say the least.
For an enterprise, the value of a community should be two-fold. Much greater levels of engagement with the customer (for the benefit of the corporate right brain) and a greater knowledge that can be utilized for customer insight (for the benefit of the corporate left brain) - which means data capture and analysis in support of that insight. Lithium has nailed the former, and has a very narrow focus on the latter - with their very good Reputation Engine which is focused on identifying influencers and key players - valuable unto itself. As good as the Reputation Engine is it is by no means enough when it comes to tracking the community's thinking about a brand or a specific topic. They do have that with Twitter - again a pack follower there - but they could move the game by manifolds if they integrate a scalable engine for social media monitoring with good old fashioned roles and responsibilities administration, and triggers, automated routing - and analysis.
Nonetheless, they are an exciting and smart company who could be a serious impact player in 2010. We will see of course. I hope I'm right - aside from assuaging my ego, it would be good for the industry.
Jive is new to the Social CRM game. Aha! I said "Social CRM" not "Social Business" and one of the reasons that they are on this watch list is that they get the difference and are spending 2010 from what I'm told by them, seeing customer engagement, not employee collaboration per se, as their prime focus for the year. Which makes them VERY interesting and worth watching.
What does that mean, Paul-the-faux-pundit-and-arch-pontificator? Explain that to me. Okay shut up and let me talk (This watchlist thing is clearly breaking me) While I view the difference between social business and Social CRM the way that Esteban Kolsky does, I'd say that Jive's view of the difference is more technobusiness focused. They see Social Business as internal and collaborative i.e. Enterprise 2.0 and Social CRM as interaction and engagement with customers which means incorporating the tools and pipelines/channels for that engagement into what they are doing.
Their 2010 strategy is to provide the not just the tools and technology but the ecosystem that companies will need to collaborate with their customers to get some sort of created mutual value. For example, that means a partnership with Bright Idea and Spigit both providers of innovation management solutions.
Their perspective is based on their assessment that the market is moving from visionary buyers (I think they mean early adopters and first movers) to pragmatic buyers (meaning those who are seeing the value and looking for ROI). They might be right. But they might be thinking a bit ahead of where the market really is.
Additionally, they are working on a strong vertical strategy and also aiming at B2B as part of their 2010 story.
They are also improving their Application Framework to be able to pass social information from any system whatever into Jive - which if you're both moving vertical and B2B is something entirely necessary.
They began 2010 with the acquisition of Filtrbox, an easy to use, highly scalable solid social media monitoring program that I've had some experience with. This will be integrated with their SBS 4.0 social business platform and is a significant step toward their customer engagement 2010.
They are also moving in the direction of technological development that I'm seeing among the social companies in general. They are using their Activity Engine (interaction engine) to look at the social connections of individuals - such what they read, write, like, don't like, and who those individuals are following and how relevant all of that can be. Analyzing influentials seems to be a hot trend among the social companies claiming Social CRM. More on that down the road. Jive seems to have thought this one through.
This is a company that is well funded, that has a smart and forward thinking leadership and a very good product. This is a company that is in the beginning of an evolution. They are by no means nwhere they want to be when it comes to Social CRM but they are evolving as the market is evolving so this will be an exciting ride to watch in 2010.
Neighborhood America has long been a favorite of mine, so when they changed their name to INgage Networks, I had a visceral "ugh" of a reaction to it. I still can't get used to it, but I understand the strategic reason for them to do so. They are doing well and need to expand internationally and Neighborhood America as a name doesn't do it for world domination. (okay, the best I could do was red, light gray, and blue).
Nonetheless, much as I love them and their peeps, from executive leadership on down, I was concerned about their plans going forward, which impact inclusion on this list, so I called them and asked for some updates and got them - and I was duly impressed, though I have a concern or two going forward.
Since late 2008, INgage Networks, took what has been an innovative social network platform built on SOA, and delivered on demand (now in the cloud) and aimed at making it a better and better product. To that end they started adding what is needed to strengthen its enterprise capabilities. First, analytics - social analytics, performance metrics, opinion analysis (sentiment analysis + social network analysis = opinion analysis) with a focus on identifying key influencers, very much like the Reputation engine that Lithium has - conceptually. As important (at least to a CRM Watchlist) was their emphasis on figuring out how to make social CRM data actionable. The way it was put to me was "less technology, more about business problems." A very important initiative coming from this generally creative company.
They've been making a serious effort to re-engage in the public sector and they've started to have some real success there - wise for a company that grew up in the public discourse "market." Not only is their integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM for the public sector a success, but they are getting increasing visibility among the leading edge of key Federal government officials in a number of government agencies.
These government initiatives at least as far as I can tell, have driven INgage Networks to add major enterprise features to their product - something that has been lacking for awhile - such as a datawarehouse, process maps and SDKs to support those maps plus other tools for ramping up the enterprise pieces. Obviously, there is a lot of value in this this for commercial enterprises too, something which I'm sure didn't escape them.
They have a long term commitment to integration with other CRM systems but I"m concerned about their ability to move beyond their Microsoft success at this point - though not their interest or desire.
They've made huge strides in the public sector over the past year but I don't see the same strides in the commercial realm - which isn't a good thing. They have a lot of skin in the commercial game and they will need to step it up there to remain competitive.
The other area that I think they've lost some ground is in the realm of thought leadership. They've always been visionary as a company thanks to CEO and chief evangelical presence Kim Kobza. But over 2009 their usually prolific intellectual output and their involvement in mind share capture slacked off as they focused on building up their operations strength both internally and externally.
So lets see what 2010 brings. I have faith.
This one is about as slam dunk as any company on the complete list - not just this portion. They have been one of the best and smartest and most focused when it comes to providing something valuable to CRM practitioners and vendors that bridges the gap between the traditional CRM needs and social requirement. Providing highly focused social sales intelligence is an art that they seem to have mastered. With their SalesView service, they provide highly focused sales intelligence that is aimed squarely at one thing - supporting sales optimization.
They don't have a big product portfolio - their sales intelligence product, SalesView is their only product in fact. It comes in three versions - free, Pro (at $99.00/user/month) and Team (customized pricing). It provides two primary features - first it monitors intelligence about what's going on in accounts and then it sees who you know in the accounts and monitors what's going on with them (moves to other companies, promotions, etc). It sources the information from the more traditional data sources such as Hoovers and Reuiters, the contemporary structured data sources like the community driven Jigsaw and the unstructured such as Twitter and blogs. And that's about it. But they do it well and they are able to use all the resources of the CRM systems they integrate with to optimize the experience that the sales pro has with SalesView.
InsideView knows exactly what their product is so they, unlike so many of the companies on this watchlist, moved aggressively to integrate with CRM systems. As a result, they have partnerships with salesforce.com, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Landslide, and are the first premium partner NetSuite ever had.
What makes them even smarter is that they've created the product so that it can be accessed and used inside whatever CRM system that's its integrated with. You never have to leave it.
What's my concern? As good as they are, as focused as they are, they are in the social media monitoring space and that is an expanding and maturing space with nearly 200 companies with SMM products. Someone is bound to come along to compete directly with this smart company. What will they do to separate themselves from the pack? We'll see in 2010.
Radian6 has been on my radar (no sort of pun intended) for a long time for three reasons. First, they seemed to have the most scalable, and thus the most enterprise friendly (with caveats) social media monitoring service. Second, they seemed to want to integrate with CRM. Third, they are headquartered in New Brunswick
, which for those of you who flunked geography, is one of the Eastern Maritime Provinces of Canada. My wife is from Newfoundland
(for those of you who are not Newfies, its pronounced New -fin-land, with an emphasis on the "land." Seriously) and Radian6 in NB was the closest I was going to get to Newfoundland in the world of Social CRM.
So I hooked up with them and found out quite a bit about them in 2009.
They had a great product, scalable - their claim was they could monitor 200 million blogs among other things and a strong flexible set of filters, which if you know social media monitoring (SMM), a lack of filters would lets say remove the final M from SMM. Figure it out. If you're stumped throw in an ampersand between the S and the M.
But they had some flaws too. At the time no sentiment analysis and most of all, no workflow and no business rules engine. As this shows up on your digital doorstep, they have an okay execution of sentiment analysis though it could use some work (manual override of the results interestingly enough would be one thing missing) and they still don't have the one thing missing as a must have - a workflow and business rules engine.
But they have a product that otherwise is one I have no real hesitation recommending at all.
They've also made a very conscious effort to integrate with CRM and currently have an integration with salesforce.com and they are actively pursuing the CRM world for further integrations which, given their impressive client list, their quality product and their verve, I have no doubt they will get the interest they need to get those integrations done. I would presume, though I don't know, they are actively speaking with the companies that provide community platforms, since SMM is something that most of the community platforms either don't have or have in a severely deformed way.
They are poised to have an impact well beyond the buzz they've already created in 2010. They are also getting themselves to be enterprise-ready in a way that truly is not just scalable. 2010 promises to be a huge year for them.
There are several concerns in my messenger bag. Hang on....let me get them out of....they seem to be stuck...ahhh. Okay. Got 'em.
- They have to move forward more quickly when it comes to a native business rules and workflow engine. Companies like Business Objects SAP who have enterprise-ready projects have powerful engines that can handle this automation with ease. Right now they have to integrate with the existing engines of other companies which due to their strong toolkits they can do that. But its not enough.
- They have created a rock star kind of persona for the company because of their incredibly skillful and playful approach to marketing in non-traditional ways (remember the Rock Stars of Social CRM last February. I do. I was one of them. YESSS!), but this year they have to start paying more attention to the "rest of it." That means reaching out to the influencers more and more, getting visible to the people that the enterprises they want to sell to, pay attention to. Their audience is that, not the consumer side that much of the coolness factor in social marketing stems from. The mix is killer. A one sided approach is deadly - bad.
- Finally, they should be thinking about increasing the number of integrations with CRM and with community platforms this year. IF they continue to claim to be Social CRM, then this is a necessity. They are a remarkably complementary offering.
- For them, though I don't presume to question it, their pricing might be an issue. They tend to be pricey in a market that isn't terribly so. That may haunt them at some point. Right now, it doesn't seem to be an issue - if you take a look at their client list - exceptional for sure - deservedly so.
I think they have huge possibilities in 2010. Are they "Social CRM?" Just like every other company in all parts of this watch list, that's open to question, but that said, they are part of the industry and a real potential impact player for 2010.
Okey Dokey. Now we move onto the 3 mos and 6 mos "Revisit" lists. Just to recap. The 3 months list is companies that fascinate me but I just don't know much about or I need to see some minor change or watch for further clarity on something lesser. The 6 months revist list is based on companies certainly worthy of watchlist consideration but they have something that is dramatically unclear to me or they need the 6 months to evolve to where they need to be or I need the six months to check them out.
3 Months Revisit List
- Scout Labs
6 Months Revisit List
Next, up Part IIIB - the social channels. The winners are already in - they are going to be....Facebook, Twitter, Skype and GetSatisfaction. No surprises except the last two I would guess. A surprise or two about who's not on the list. No LinkedIn?
Tune in for this second to last installment.