Jive Software: the end of the beginning...

Financial market sentiment around Jive's growth prospects will now play an increasingly important role in the broader space they have come from. The big leagues are crowded and finding space to grow as a platform will be challenging but possible
Written by Oliver Marks, Contributor

Hearty congratulations to all at Jive Software on their successful newborn IPO pulse today, particularly to those who laid the foundations over the last eleven years of their existence.  The journey from providing on premise J2EE forums for business users to their current 'Engage' 'Social Business' platform has been eventful to say the least.

Now that JIVE are launched on the public markets what does the future hold in a complicated space? Floating is one thing, swimming another, and in many ways this is the end of the beginning.

I was up early this morning to participate remotely in SAP's Boston analyst event, and the juxtaposition of their enterprise complexities with Jive's market pop as they started trading on the promise of their offerings being ultimately profitable was striking for me.

Just about every vendor these days has tacked on activity streams and ipad apps to their core offerings - much like cloudwashing, which technology integrator Appirio are celebrating on the 14th December with their 'Cloudwashies' awards - there's an awful lot of collaboration window dressing and happy talk from vendors. Jive have been through various iterations but are the real deal. First the open source and support component supplier for forums and instant messaging. Then came the behind the firewall Clearspace internal collaboration environment and Clearspace X external communities products and on into their 'Social Business' marketing era and the Sequoia venture capital B round induced management changes, which brought in the Mercury Interactive team to run Jive.

Where Mercury Interactive sold to HP for their exit in 2006, the Jive IPO is effectively an exit for Jive's VC backers (and also the ability to pay off twenty million in debt assuming the stock price holds up).  Jive's sizzle has been more visible than their steak recently as they successfully pumped up the marketing balloon around shiny new 'social business' ideas; under all this hoopla their core 'Engage' product and various modules is now a rather typical enterprise suite: a Swiss army knife of offerings that is hard to see objectively in its entirety.

Going back to SAP, despite their overall size they discussed this morning that 80% of their business is actually with small and medium sized business, which is where they are seeking green shoots growth. Enterprise technology is a conservative, complex world where considerable benefit has to be demonstrated in 'better' ways of working, and where there are a lot of moving parts and people to consider. Where SAP, who have a very distinct cultural way of doing things, are currently noisy about their in-memory HANA processing power to speed up transactions as a foundation for their future, Jive are now making a bid with their new funding to be a platform for larger firms which sits on top of existing systems of record and other enterprise systems. This Engage platform is intended to be both a collaborative hub and a gateway to the world outside the firewall of customers and partners.

As we all know, the signal to noise ratio through the various streams of digital information available to us is deafening, and filtering is sure to be an even hotter topic in 2012.  In my experience most Jive customers are on earlier versions of Jive software which have been heavily customized to be fit for purpose as point solutions. While this has been very attractive business for system integrators, the challenges of upgrading are significant. SAP for example has been a major user of Jive forums but have abandoned until next year an upgrade to the 'Social Business' offerings because they have run into significant issues. This is the real enterprise software world and not the visionary fluff that has historically plagued the Enterprise 2.0 world and this type of thing comes with the territory, but these type of problems are viewed differently by the public markets.

A broader point for this market is that one of the huge challenges in designing effective collaboration is the ability to rise above the political rat holes. A proposed common collaboration strategy is inevitably going to 'miss the mark' for those individuals seeking tactical advantage over others in management hierarchy. Hiding behind lip service to naive ideas around 'adoption' and patronizing prospective users as stereotypical Lego figure style 'personas' can be attempted power plays for control of information - knowledge is power, particularly in the executive suite.

The technology - and there is plenty of excellent fit for purpose products on the market that will Tetris into existing enterprise stacks out there - isn't a huge issue these days. It's realigning company culture so there is something in it for everyone that's key ...just like what it will take for you to have a festive and enjoyable holiday season with your friends and family. Making that spirit endure over time with a workable plan is challenging in a company just as it is in a family, but essential to realize the value from the thinking and associated technologies.

Wall Street isn't main street and 'Think Different' (to steal Ken Segall's famous Chiat Day Apple Computer marketing line) about profits. Typically IPOs kick off with irrational exuberance about stock prospects before settling back into bean counter scrutiny of performance.

Jive are now playing in the big leagues as a firm that is the same age as Microsoft Sharepoint, and the classic enterprise technology relationships game is sure to rear its head even more now. The parent child relationships between incumbents and challengers is pretty savage behind the scenes, and the cloud dimension is an added factor in the current economy.

Jive straddle responsibilities for continued support for on premise installs and the complexities of upgrade cycles as well as living in the brave new word of on demand cloud and mobile software as a service and associated apps. SAP of course have this problem in spades, but they are running the fundamentals in huge numbers of companies and are unlikely to be ripped and replaced by SaaS offerings in most areas. (Famous last words I'm sure many challengers would say...).

Jive now have to prove themselves over the coming quarters with continuing growth in a tough economy to please their new financial market masters, competing in a very crowded market. The cloud juggernaut continues to dominate - Salesforce are kicking off Dreamforce Japan to a 10,000 strong crowd today for example, and just announced a fully operational Japanese data center - but this is effectively the end of the beginning for Jive and a welcome to the big league of enterprise vendors today.

Financial market sentiment on JIVE will have a significant impact on the rest of their market space going forward and we all hope for buoyancy going forward...


Image captured from Marketwatch at 4:30 EST today

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