Previously on the Watchlist:
And the Winners of the CRM Watchlist 2014 are....
CRM Watchlist 2014: Winner of Lifetime Achievement - Amazon
CRM Watchlist 2014: For the 1st time ever: The Watchlist Elite, Part I
CRM Watchlist 2014: For the 1st time ever: The Watchlist Elite, Part II
CRM Watchlist 2014: For the 1st time ever: The Watchlist Elite Part III
CRM Watchlist 2014 Winners: Upgraded to a Suite Part I
CRM Watchlist 2014 Winners: Upgraded to a Suite Part II
CRM Watchlist 2014 Winners: Customer Engagement Hottest Market
CRM Watchlist 2014 Winners: Going Marketing
I’ve managed to squeeze out one more grouping – again, not a category – for community platforms. Good for me. That means we’re going to look at CRM Watchlist winners Jive and Lithium.
For the longest time, we’ve been hearing about the value of communities – and for the longest time, we’ve had communities. Prior to communities, we had (and still do in a pretty big way) user forums and prior to that, old people, we had Usenet groups. Prior to that we had (and still do) actual communities – meaning places where people actually lived and interacted. Meaning, communities have been part of our existence since long before we were digital.
But, while I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, there is a new reality. We…are…digital. That means that the channels that we communicate in have grown and the number of people available to communicate with us is manifolds greater, and the number of people who will respond to what we tell them is also much larger than it has been in the past. But, regardless of what we had and what we currently have –people continue to gravitate to what they know; in whatever format they have to know it. So if we’ve lived in communities our entire lives, to gravitate to a digital one when the opportunity presents itself for communicating with a population at large or at least a larger population, is kind of a natural no brainer.
Yet, despite the obvious reason to participate, i.e. it’s a place that people of like mind communicate with each other, there is still a fair amount of confusion about what communities are, both as a location/venue and confusion over what technology supports it. Let me clear them up for you.
Facebook is not a community. It is an external social network; as Twitter is to some degree. What distinguishes a social network from a community is that the social networks glue falls under the aegis of pre-existing relationships. Communities are based more on common interests or practices. Knowing someone before hand is not a prerequisite for membership in a community. Having a common interest is a reason to join. For some exceptional discussion on the difference, take a look at Dr. Michael Wu’s 2010 work here. Michael is the Chief Data Scientist at Lithium, and one of the thought leaders in the field.
This is a significant difference when it comes to business-related communities. What members have in common is an interest or a particular practice of some kind – it could be a brand interest, it could be a common interest in a skillset or it could be a practical matter. But one way or the other it is a community of common interest. What that implies is not the pre-existing relationship but either a desire to find like minded individuals or expertise that you need. That means the role of the community facilitator is not to curate interactions between or among friends but to matchmake or to find information or the source of information for the community members. So, for example, a sales person in an external social network is asking friends for something (though I'm ignoring the psychology of those kind of relationships to make the point) while in a B2B community is acting as a subject matter expert or as the lynchpin in the relationship between the buyer and the seller even if its about a customer service matter. Of course, there are, as all things in life have, lots of grey areas but, these are the differences at least in the most simplistic of ways.
Okay, enough of the pontificating. Lets boogie now. Jive and Lithium - what about them?
Jive is a company that never fails to amaze. It is better than it is given credit for and at the same time is always the subject of something unexpected. For example, Jive critics complain about its revenues yet it averages roughly $120 million annually and their run rate is greater than that. At the same time, there has been the uneven discussion about the marketplace that they are going after. Are they B2B? Are they going after the internal and collaborative? But wait, they are attempting the B2C market - or are they? OR are they providing customer service communities? Yet, they have made their intentions known pretty clearly with the release of their new Jive X platform – which means they are adding the B2C and customer community space to their existing target markets – B2B/ internal collaborative and enterprise. At the same time their direction and focus is becoming clearer and clearer, rumors are beginning to surface of both an interest in acquisition (sorry, can’t tell you who, but I know) and one in Jive putting itself out there for acquisition.
For a while, Jive’s biggest problems were their lack of marketing direction which spilled into what was a poor analyst relations effort in addition. But that has been corrected with the appointment of what seems to be a solid Chief Marketing Officer, industry veteran Elisa Steele (She also scored the role of EVP of Strategy). This is combined with an intensive effort to turn their analyst relations program on its head – which they have started to successfully do.
Yet, let me be absolutely crystalline. There is a reason that Jive won the Watchlist one more time. With all the uncertainties and changes, Jive is a force to be reckoned with in the world of communities. They are one of the two major players – CRM Watchlist 2014 Winner Lithium being the other (see below) – that are having an impact on what moves the community technology market and even the customer facing technology market itself.
What does Jive have going for it? This time around, as I have said, they’ve addressed a significant number of their problems. But there is one other thing. Their platform. Their Jive 7 release provides their strongest technology in years and a potential market slice that they didn’t have a few months before it.
There are several parts that are impressive. Since I’m not going to go into a deep dive, I’ll give you a couple of the highlights here.
Another very important differentiators for Jive is their provision of strategic consulting services. To be clear, their offering is strategies in service of their technologies – e.g. SEO strategy that maximizes the use of Jive’s SEO functionality. But their consulting services are a serious and strong group who are good at that. This is not a new model – I remember back in the day in the late 90s in fact – Salesnet, an early SFA competitor to salesforce, used to offer “business analysts” whose sole job was to look at your sales operations and then figure out how to make Salesnet work best for you, given what you had. Like Jive, they weren’t focused on suggesting improvements to what you have, but on how to use their platform best, given what you have.
This actually, in the case of Jive, is a strength because it allows for partnerships with consulting companies and systems integrators who do offer the more strategic and judgmental consulting. Thus, they are able to have partnerships with some of the major players like Accenture, CSC, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Hewlett Packard who can take them into larger deals. They also have a strong, not-quite-ecosystem of partners in technology who work on their platform (e.g. SAP, LinkedIn, Akamai); on specific use cases (e.g. Bunchball for gamification; Totango for community analytics) and they have their own app market for partners who are using the Jive API and toolkits to build their own Jive applications and integrations (e.g. Hedloc CRM integrates Jive with SugarCRM and Microsoft Dynamics).
What they need to do
Jive, in the last year roughly, has come miles and miles. Yet there are miles to go before they sleep…or get sold. But regardless of what happens to them, one thing I know is that they are a playa in a world of players and this is a good thing. They weren’t a difficult choice for a winning spot in the Watchlist this year.
Lithium has been an intriguing company that has undergone major changes for many years, while staying true to its core – despite occasional forays outside the core that didn’t work.
For the last several years, they have steadily and surely put together an enterprise class organization and shed their youthful skin as they matured.
Growing up to becoming a company that has enterprise on its mind and in its DNA isn’t an easy thing, yet Lithium has been genetically predisposed to doing that for a long time. If you take a look at some of their raw stats, you realize that this is a company that scales big – and finally has reached the place where they think big.
Let’s look at some of the numbers so you get a sense of this:
Those are numbers at scale. Serious numbers. Enterprise-grade DNA numbers.
Clearly their platform is enterprise-ready or it couldn’t do what it is doing. The platform, over the last year has evolved. It has been enterprise scalable for a while. The last year has been spent refining a number of key areas that were needed to make the usefulness of the platform greater than just the results at scale. The biggest development wasn’t the direct improvement of the platform but was the increase in its elasticity with the creation of the Lithium Developer Network (LDN). While the Developers Network is an actual network of developers, it is also the name of a refresh of the platform to include not only an extensible architecture but also well over 1200 REST Version 2 APIs that are designed for integration with other applications. They even developed a plugin tool for developers that allow them to develop to the Lithium platform within the development environment they are comfortable with.
All in all, LDN is vitally important to Lithium’s future because communities don’t really stand by themselves. They can, but their power lies in the integration into ecosystems that service customers. They are channels for engagement with the customers and among the customers. Their power lies in what you learn from them and the social intercourse that the communities evoke. As a channel of engagement, their integration into systems of record is vital since it is where customer’s information is captured and analyzed, reported and insights uncovered.
To do this, Lithium had to make a very good management team even better. They hired Sunil Rajasekar as the SVP of Engineering in 2012 and it was a helluva move. The platform has been refreshed, the Developer Network has been put into place, the tools created and made available, the APIs there for use, the customer service functions enhanced and more deeply embedded into the platform and the analytics strengthened, though still not where I think they can be.
But Sunil is one of what has become a very strong management team, led by CEO Rob Tarkoff. CMO Katy Keim continues to stay creative, be one of the faces of the company and just rock out as CMO; Ed VanSiclen as SVP of Partners and Alliances, has taken what was lets just say to be charitable a weak partner program and turned it into a serious ecosystem with alliances that have been forged with most of the major players in the customer-facing world; and others like Joel Cothrel, Chief Community Officer – and a thought leader unto himself and of course ubermind, Michael Wu as the Chief Scientist. There are many others who deserve some credit, but I don’t have the space.
All in all Lithium is well prepared to make an impact year over year and with a few things that they need to do, can both hone the operational side of the company and improve the mindshare. But, of course, they have to do these things.
What they need to do
Lithium has always painted its world in bold, big brushstrokes and even as it grew itself, took on bold big initiatives in bold big markets. They’ve succeeded at this – as tough as it is – and have an outsized reputation as a result. They won the Watchlist, not because they have an outsized reputation but because I think it can be right sized without shrinking it a bit. Which is a convoluted way of saying, they have boatloads of potential with all the pieces in place and with all the tweaks made. You go, Lithium.
That’s it for this week. First, let me say that I’m sorry that you had to wait so long but, hey bunkies, I’m a one person show and sometimes the force of events gets in the way. What can I say? Sorry is the best I can do. Which I truly am.
Next week we are into the final sets of reviews – which are two sets of alphabetical vendors and then three consulting/systems integrators. Next up will be, in alphabetical order: BPMonline, Janrain and Lattice Engines.
Also, remember, if you’re interested in being a part of the CRM Watchlist for 2015, please send me an email at email@example.com and get the registration form. When it is returned you will get the questionnaire and the 2013 Watchlist Yearbook and when the 2014 Watchlist Yearbook is done, that will be sent automatically. Cool beans. Would love to have you. There will be a major post on the 2015 contest to close out this year’s Watchlist after the reviews are done.