If I were a betting man, I’d bet that Jive has enough going now and will in the future to blow the doors off – if they do a few things that they haven’t done all that well with to date.
I’m glad to say, I’m not a betting man, luckily, since I just returned from my first JiveWorld – held at The Cosmopolitan in….guess here…c’mon…hint “betting”….Las Vegas. I can’t believe you didn’t figure that out. LOL.
But though I’m not a bettor, I can say with some certainty, that Jive’s product lines have turned the corner and the company isn’t far behind.
Let me get down to the nitty gritty.
First, as always, the conference
As anyone who reads this blog knows, when I attend these conferences, I like to look at the conference itself. Rather than repeat my complete exposition or patter if you want to call it that about the importance of conferences, I’ll say one thing – conferences for technology companies set the tone for an entire year and can make or break deals, market valuations, and public opinion for that twelve month period. If you want more detail about my conference thinking (always so very exciting!!. J), check this post on salesforce here or this one on Microsoft here.
With my attendance at Oracle OpenWorld, I introduced the “beta” version of my Conference Report Card where I give a grade to various parts of conferences and an overall one. This year is the test bed – which means Open World, JiveWorld, and finally Dreamforce late in November. My grade of OpenWorld wasn’t weighted. My grades for JiveWorld are.
Check out the report card and why each category got the grade they did. All in all, Jive did a very good job of making this conference valuable and even memorable in a few ways.
In general, the keynotes were incredibly well presented, the concepts were clearly explained; the details just enough to not be overly granular; the customers were, unlike so many, engaging speakers to a person; The outside keynote, Eddie Obeng, was a superb choice with substance and style. I would like to have seen a bit more visionary content and there was one other thing that needs to be kept private that was a little regrettable. But all in all, a genuinely excellent effort from all.
Sessions in general
From discussions with the attendees who were at various sessions, they were able to get a good mix of sessions on the product and its roadmaps and some more technical to pretty useful customer sessions. The wishlists seemed to simply more sessions (not sure what content) and more line of business oriented sessions (of the “how to” type e.g. Best practices on community facilitation)
Analyst relations & press
This was their first effort at an organized analyst presence and they had an impressive group of players attend from a pretty wide variety of sources. There were a few gaps in execution, most notably no power or press/analyst section which meant that the tweeters among the analysts – which are many – once power was low, had to stop. But a commendable first effort. Better than most at this stage.
Food quality (mass)
Without detailing it, I’ll say only one thing about early main meals – when the coffee is the only edible thing in the room and the healthiest – it needs to be stepped up. The reason this wasn’t worse was because the snacks between the sessions were interesting and abundant – relative to other conferences like this.
Food quality (analyst relations & press)
All in all, the food was more than adequate and the press analyst room on the 15th floor had a decent light selection
Relative to the monster exhibition halls you see at Oracle OpenWorld and SAP Sapphire, this was very small – but the vendor/partner representation was very good, the arrangement of the booths and the walking lanes and areas was well done – as a place to socialize and communicate – which is how it was used.
The crowd energy was strong at the keynotes, and even stronger on the floor and in the halls. The attendees both were clearly enjoying themselves and were impressed by Jive’s presentations of their new Jive 7 platform and products and were happy to be at the event. It wasn't electric, but it was positive.
The overall event was one with a continuous buzz and a conviviality that made the event a good one. The choice of The Cosmopolitan (if you have to have it in Las Vegas – my least favorite city in the U.S.) was a really good one – and the conference was able to function without the rest of the casino crowd in the way, yet the restaurants and bars were high quality, which added to the convivial atmosphere at the event.
On the conference floors, there were always people to direct you somewhere or help you some way. The only thing kept this from a solid A is that sometimes the answers to relatively obvious questions weren’t there.
This is a strong score that indicates a genuinely well done conference where it matters. Tweaks next year and wow.
But what about Jive – Backgrounder
Jive historically has been a likeable but somewhat exasperating company – a company with infinite promise that started to make progress and then would step on itself either visibly or invisibly – what I mean by that will all become meaningful in a few moments.
But one thing persisted throughout the good and not so good – they were focused on the enterprise community platform market – and they didn’t waver from that, to their great credit. They also continued to develop their platform, make some key small functional acquisitions – nothing that I’d call strategic or life changing. They were more “feature fills” that were important to making their platform more and more complete. They were able to because they have a great product development team, integrate the acquired companies and technologies, quickly and effectively. I would say, exceptionally well by comparison.
But they had (this is partially in the past tense) two consistent problems – they had (this is the past tense part) little to no analyst relations – and when you are a public company the size of Jive you have to. The other problem, still unresolved at this writing has been that they go through marketing executives at a pace that was frightening – and dangerous. The danger of not having marketing executives who can develop strategic initiatives, understand how to conduct targeted campaigns and manage resources given the budgets they get to work with should be apparent. But in case it isn’t, here’s what not having that executive means:
- No matter how great the product, if no one hears about it or doesn’t have it top of mind, then the product quality isn’t going to matter. It won’t sell.
- The positioning of the brand and the messaging around the products and company has to resonate with those who are listening. They have to be able to say to themselves “I could use that” and they have to trust the brand. If there is no one there to guide that appropriate focus, then those listening never get to hear what they should.
- The expectations that are created by the positioning and messaging have to met when the products are examined and, hopefully selected, which takes coordination and organization via a marketing officer.
- This all means a consistent and creative visionary marketing presence – and a team that can execute well against all this, even when things change.
Jive mostly hasn’t and currently doesn’t have this. They went through a succession of not quite right to almost clueless CMOs and CMO-level people that were sandwiched by the excellent Ben Kiker and until recently, the very smart John Rizzo. Those bookended talents are why I say “mostly” doesn’t have.
Interestingly, despite the inconsistency, over the last year, the company’s messaging went into a place that was not only right, but entirely right on. They began to explicitly talk about providing the tools and platform for business outcomes. To date, they have been the only company I’ve seen that’s done this in the way it should be. Rather than traditional product marketing which focuses around the features and functions, capabilities and components, that the technology provides, the outcome-based approach addresses the actual human side of business – meaning what people need to get not just the amorphous company work done, but their work done.
That means that in order for the technology system or platform or application or service to be useful, it has to address the concerns not just of the corporation, but of the person(s) using it. It needs to address specific outcomes.
Jive has not only evolved this messaging despite their plethora of coming and going marketing execs but they’ve made the development of their new Jive platform and product, Jive 7, consistent with this – and that is a potential game changer for them – though of course like any company in this mix, they have to execute against their promise.
If anything was clear from JiveWorld 2013, it was that Jive 7 and all incarnations of their platform going forward were based on a realistic view of what businesses need to get their desired outcomes. Even though they have been characterized as a community platform, an enterprise social network platform and a dozen other characterizations that either explicitly said social or implied it, they built something that emphasized “enterprise”, not “social.”
Think of this analogy. If you buy the gold iPhone and get it, for about a week it’s all “Ooooh, GOLD iPhone.” On the eighth day, it’s just an iPhone. The sheen is gone. At this point, it needs to work like a smartphone, whether its gold or silver or black or blue. If it doesn’t work its all “oooooh, it’s a crappy iPhone.”
It’s the same with social software platforms and applications. They have to work in the day-to-day, tactical, practical, task-driven, outcome-based, non-sexy, blocking and tackling world of a company. It could be in service of something trendy (and sticky) like a community, but if the registration process fails, trendy or not, you don’t have a community.
But it also has to be a product of its times. We’re talking about customers all day and night but community members, whether they are customers or employees, are humans interacting with each other in an institution. The institution has to be there for them and the experience they have with that institution, that community, has to be genuinely useful and interesting enough to want them to come back over and over, without losing the emotional interest that drove them there in the first place. There needs to be enough value and enough of a sense of feeling valued to keep them engaged in that community.
Because of the transformation of communications and information over the last decade, the demands for more and more personalized interactions and sculpted custom experiences are greater than ever. But for that to happen, you need to know what is happening in the community and who is doing what.
This is another place that Jive 7 shows some serious potential. They have through their own native development and the acquisition of Resonata earlier this year unveiled some apparently (meaning I’ve only seen demos) powerful “community analytics” that even incorporate some predictive capabilities. For example, they are able to predict in the near term:
- Customer churn due to product or service issues
- Changes in subscription and new customer acquisition rates
- Customer satisfaction ratings of new products or services
Don’t get me wrong – this is a start with analytics and is analytics focused on community activity, but they are the analytics that enterprises that are building and providing communities would want. They found that out by talking to their customers and made some pretty wise decisions on what to provide. This isn’t to say it competes with their much more robust cousins at, say, SAP, or Oracle, or IBM, but it’s a start and addresses customers’ needs for outcomes of value.
This seems to be their whole approach to Jive 7. Provide what the enterprise needs after the thrill is gone. Rather than focus on “social” focus on “work.” There are dozens of new capabilities that are geared to enterprise concerns like:
- Expertise focused social profiles
- Mobile applications with enterprise-grade security and architecture.
- New integrations with Office, Outlook and Sharepoint, which regardless of your opinion of Microsoft are staples in the workplace.
- Strong task management via an integration with Producteev
- Massively improved search
- Real time interactions – in context.
- New and improved analytics (see above)
What makes this even more compelling is that, according to major league influencer Esteban Kolsky, the roadmaps for the next several releases are even more amazing.
There is so much more to talk about – and, if they are one of the Watchlist winners, I will talk about that much more. But suffice to say at this point, this company has set itself up for a potentially excellent 2014.
That is entirely dependent on their marketing and their public presence. They have the other horses in place but as is always the case, if no one knows that, who gives a crap?
As I said, their messaging is spot-on but their overall marketing thrust and public posture and presence is nowhere near as vibrant as it should be. Some of that is due to a lack of a strategic CMO. But some of that is also simply due to what has been a long time “aftermath” for their IPO of December 2011. They were heavily heads down during the pre-IPO period getting ready – as you would expect them to be. But for reasons that are unknown to me, they never really lifted their heads after the IPO which is the time that they should have ahoooooooooed to the world.
Don’t get me wrong, their awesome CSO, Chris Morace was out there making the rounds as was to a different (not lesser) extent CEO Tony Zingale. But that was the extent of their marketing efforts other than banner ads in unusual places, and some sponsorships here and there. But, until recently, they weren’t making the requisite PR and AR attempts, or even doing a lot of the block and tackling marketing that it doesn’t take a CMO to envision. They were puzzling some people and even alienating others to some extent. They were seen as aloof. Which, in reality, they aren’t. But perception is everything, now, isn’t it?
Now, to their credit, the public butterfly is finally emerging from its cocoon if JiveWorld 2013 is any indicator – and it is. They are seriously lifting their heads and beginning to move out into the industry and to the world where their future customers reside and making the connections with key people, connecting the dots for the general public and all in all making some progress in terms of their visibility. Next year, I expect I will see a lot more.
Jive 7 for them can be a game changer. The new company attitude indicated at JiveWorld 2013 can be even more of a game changer than their refreshed technology. So the world is waiting for them. I’m not going to base this on past history. I’m just more and more optimistic for the future – if they execute. Entirely up to them.
Jive, I’m waiting…