The Yankees didn’t make it to the World Series. The (NY) Giants didn’t make it to the playoffs. I’m tempted to not let any company in a city that beat the Yankees (Dallas) or the Giants (Green Bay?. Ahhh, but I like the Packers) not make the Watchlist but I can’t do that. Sigh. Okay, so that’s a different season. But….
Here are the three prior posts with the winners listed along side the post
- Finally! The CRM Watchlist 2011 Part I: – Salesforce.com; Microsoft; SAP, Oracle
- The CRM Watchlist Part II: The Usual Suspects: NetSuite, RightNow, Sage, CDC Software/Pivotal, SugarCRM
- The CRM Watchlist 2011 Part III: Representing the Pillars: Marketo, Eloqua, Infusionsoft, JitterJam, Sword-Ciboodle, Moxie, Genesys, Pegasystems, GetSatisfaction, InsideView
In general what makes this an interesting list this year – as opposed to last year, (No, I’m NOT saying last year was uninteresting, this one is more interesting. What will I do with you? ) is that, there are twice as many winners and there were three times as many submissions including those I chose and those that self-nominated. That’s because, as far as its maturity goes, the market is now teenage. Definitely past puberty, not entirely at adulthood. So there are lots of new companies showing up at the same time that the best standalones are often getting acquired and, we’re even seeing some consolidation, though not as much as expected (as much as I expected). Though, what I’m looking at is none of that, really. Its just interesting.
For this part of the Watchlist, what I’m throwing out there are my winners for the social mainstream. Another development in 2010 was that community platforms, social media monitoring tools, social channels etc. got mainstream credibility. You made it, baby!!
For any one of them to make this list though, while there are dozens of worthy companies out there who are part of the social mainstream, they have to show either native CRM functionality or that they understand that they have to integrate with traditional CRM applications to get where they want to be. They have to have at least clear and unimpeachable intent to do that in order for me to think “wow, this is a company I want others to know about.”
That said I’m sure my emotions will overwhelm me here and there. I wonder if these guys will see that and measure it?
The Social Mainstream Watchlist Winners 2011
Lithium was kind of a no-brainer for a lot of reasons. Aside from the fact I think they are a very cool company with a very strong B2C focused community platform, I also think they did some things in 2010 that bode a lot of good for them. Including growing up quite a bit to recognize that their market is going to be the consumer side of the enterprise, even though they have other B2B customers who are quite significant.
They made some great moves in 2010 which bodes well as far as I’m concerned and gives them Watchlist status for a second straight year.
- 2010 saw their acquisition of Scout Labs back in May. Scout Labs was one of the top SMM services as a standalone and, while rebranded now with the rather plain but descriptive name – Lithium Social Media Monitoring – certainly remains a huge asset to the Lithium social business portfolio.
- They (along with Jive – see below) won the Leadership (a.k.a. upper right quadrant) position in Gartner’s Social CRM Magic Quadrant in June 2010 – a genuinely big deal because when Gartner creates a magic quadrant it validates the space it represents. (I’m going to one up Gartner this year and create a Social CRM Magic Pentagon – oh, wait, that would make me a witch or a U.S. military building. Shucks.).
- Lithium also showed really well in the Forrester Wave as a top Community Platform in November 2010. Pretty much #1 in categories like features (the technology), leadership, services, clients.
- Even with all the SCRM accolades they were getting, they did something I found both smart, somewhat courageous even and the right thing to do. They changed their messaging from “Social CRM” to offering a “Social Customer Suite” – a much better and more appropriately aligned message with what they have to offer.
- Additionally, they gave Dr. Michael Wu, who is arguably one of the important scientific thinkers right now on the real nature of influence – room to be just that, without forcing him to push the brand into the faces of the academic community, the influencer community and the customers. In other words, they allowed him to be a thought leader. And the work he is doing is not only bearing that moniker out but also is actually supporting their brand.
- The new Social Customer Suite is a marked and mature social platform that can integrate with CRM applications, platforms and services. With the addition of Scout Labs, it becomes even stronger. There is a strong focus on metrics and analytics which, given the new world of “organizing unstructured data into meaningful information to support insight”, this is a great thing.
Are there things that they could do better? Uh, yeah. A couple particularly stand out.
I can’t say enough about integrating Lithium to the largest CRM applications and platforms. A look at their partnership list when it comes to technology partners is somewhat scarce with salesforce.com, Eloqua and Parature as the only three that fall into the CRM category (though they have what might seem to be a peculiar partnership with Attensity – not sure what the reasoning is now that they have Scout Labs. Maybe the analytics side of Attensity). That’s truly not good enough. If they expect to continue their trek upmarket, then they are going to have to be associated with the Oracles, SAPs, Microsofts of the world among others.
Second, for that trek, having just basically Cognizant and (sort of) Sapient as partners with true reach into the large enterprises isn’t enough. No disrespect to each of the other consulting partners, but Lithium needs the big boys and they don’t have them beyond the forward thinking Cognizant really and Sapient.
All in all though, they can deal with all that in 2011. They are on what I would call a righteous path if I could actually use the word in this particular part of the post. But, even without using that, they are a company to watch this year and its gonna be hottttttt.
Jive is a company of contrasts that, in its essence, is a company of genuinely smart geeks and genuinely smart business folks – I say that with love. Serious technology mavens – which is why they put out such a strong product. But in what is likely preparation for their publicly obvious IPO, they lost their way somewhat in 2010 and yet, still remain a real force and an obvious choice in being part of this Watchlist.
Don’t ever underestimate this company. Just to get the story straight and put it in a way too simplistic fashion. They are a very smart play for a B2B company to consider. Their latest public iteration, Jive SBS 4.5 is much more than just a community platform (they call it a Social Business Suite). They offer that but so much more with enterprise collaboration, ideation communities, service communities, social marketing and several other “not-inside-out” categories. They have the mobile capabilities to extend the platform; they have solid analytics; they have a widgetized way of producing functionality (in some respects) that makes it easy on the designers to build functionality into the system with a minimum of customized code.
Jive has been consistently underestimated because of some weird historic vestige of a mantra that, admittedly, I repeated (mostly because is easy and rhythmic) that their community platform is “inside out.” SAP’s communities – the SCN (SAP Community Network) runs on Jive. They scale. They have one of the premier SVP of Product in the industry, Chris Morace. They have a management team run by industry veterans who spanned CRM companies like Vantive and Siebel, and oddly, Mercury Interactive i.e. testing veterans who have been around long enough to understand the marketplace. They are one of the few social mainstream companies smart enough to attack the public sector as an area of interest to them, though, admittedly, despite the Open Government Initiative, it’s never easy to convince even the most progressive civil servants why they need this stuff. Jive’s commitment to the public sector is smart despite its always long term nature. They have marquee customers besides SAP like Cisco, Nike, Toshiba, and Intel. They have strong partnerships with the big boys like Deloitte, Accenture, Cap Gemini and of course, the ever smart Cognizant. They integrate with SAP (a close, close partner of theirs) and Oracle (so far.) – while certainly not a large list of integrations, if you’re going for the enterprise, its where I would start.
That’s quite a story. No wonder they’re going public.
BUT, as Shakespeare said in Hamlet “to sleep, perchance to dream -ay, there’s the rub.” Which means that in what I have to presume is their focus on the IPO, they forgot to do a lot of things that got them to the “getting-ready-for-IPO” status in the first place.
Jive, with all its promise, needs to take 2011 and reintroduce what brought them to their success. They need to have far more market presence than they do and need to make more impact in the realm of thought leadership and need to engage the influencer community in a way that reflects the 21st century, not the 20th.
My public advice to Jive is simple (I have more I’d say privately):
- More clarity in your general messaging. Social Business in a broad sense is far too vague and minimally, an insufficient explanation of what you provide.
- Be more specific in your vertical messaging. A hypothetical example. The messaging for the commercial sector isn’t the same as the messaging for the public sector. I won’t say more on this here.
- While the institutional influencers truly do matter, there are more than just them out there that matter equally or at times even more.
- Bring it hard when it come to intellectual i.e. thought leadership in the market. Expand your public presence. Jive World is an important soapbox for you, and there is outreach to do, beyond Jive World too. You have the horsepower, the staff, the finances and the intelligence and the street cred (to some extent) that you need to add to the conversation – and, dudes, customers will see that.
In other words, take what you have – a strong, always improving product suite and let people who need to know – customers, influencers etc. – know that you have it, what it does for them and how you are a market-leader. Which you are, though who knows that?
In 2010, you didn’t do this anywhere nearly as well as you should and thus everyone barely saw it. 2011, be there or be square – and I don’t mean foursquare, Jive. I picked you for this list for a reason. You belong there. Now prove it.
There is no doubt in my mind that when it came to social media monitoring, Radian6 was the market maker, in other words, the company that proved the value of social media monitoring tools in the marketplace. Their success has been tremendous over the past several years with some significant advances in their already solid monitoring technology. One of their major selling points has been the sheer volume that they are able to monitor with a claimed 200 million blogs in their purview. But they understand that the ability to capture and organize (note I didn’t say analyze) all this unstructured data is useless unless the formats that are provided are both readable and provided in a way that makes the information meaningful. Thus, the release of their engagement console and their dashboard, which does what you would expect a dashboard to do – shows you the activity, the metrics and the management of the feeds and activities and the information captured. The addition of sentiment analysis, though simple, was welcome in 2010.
Importantly, they see the value of integrating with CRM applications and currently have integrated with salesforce.com with several others in the works – more than the usual share, which warms the cockles o’ me heart. They have a strong API to go with that.
What next? For them to truly be enterprise-ready , the workflow and business rules engine next which will let them scale as they need to, and hopefully, more granular sentiment analysis capabilities.
The product even as it is, is strong. It is remarkably good at getting the information and organizing it, wherever it comes from. That’s led to a who’s who of enterprise customers, who I’m not repeating here, you can just go look at their website and let it wash over you.
Their growth has been explosive with over 200 employees. They have a young smart management team that has experience in the business world and is not arrogant and actually willing to listen to ideas, a rarity among leadership of successful companies.
For me, their location in New Brunswick, the maritime province of Canada, not New Jersey is a big plus because I’m married to a Newfoundlander so they are as close it gets to Newfoundland when it comes to a CRMish company. Okay, kidding here, but I really do like the fact they are a Canadian company.
Their culture is very much a younger, cool culture but they have a technological hunger for improvement so that they don’t rest on laurels despite their youthful coolness. I spoke with Brent Leary and Michael Thomas at a Radian6 “Rockstars of Social CRM” event in 2009 that was one of the coolest events of the year, thrown successfully together by their CMO, David Alston in, like, 3 weeks. Amazing. 250 at the event, and several hundred live streaming.
But they are growing up too. Their Board of Directors added Zuora CEO and former Chief Strategy Officer at salesforce.com Tien Tzuo early this year, a huge addition to their experience.
Where could they improve? Well, the competition is greater than ever in the market they made. Consequently, they haven’t stood out as clearly as they used to as the market leader. The technologies that their competitors are putting out there are innovative and often very forward thinking and that’s something that in the SMM world, especially if you’re focused on the enterprise, makes a huge difference in market impact and thought leadership. 2011 is their year to come up with some technological innovations that are appealing to the marketplace and to be able to get out the message to the influencers and customers that they have them. There are some basics – improved sentiment analysis and workflow/business rules engine, but this is their year to show why they have been market makers. A company to watch indeed.
Attensity is another one of the pleasant surprises for 2011. I didn’t have them on my radar, until I started following their young blogging star Maria Ogneva (who has since moved on to Nimble). She came from the acquisition that Attensity did of Biz360 in April of 2010, which they acquired to provide the social media monitoring capabilities to support their voice of the customer analytics engine, the basis for their success in the marketplace up to that point. It was a wise acquisition, given the quality of Biz360’s SMM functionality.
While all this was going on, I was hearing good things about Attensity and all its top flight functionality on the back end from analyst stars like Esteban Kolsky and Ray Wang, so needless to say my interest was piqued, though being a diva (divo) I wondered why I didn’t know them yet. Must have been their fault. NOT.
So I investigated and I talked to customers and analysts and a few competitors and I must say there were some things that just stood out about them. Here are some of the things that appeal to me:
- One thing of importance was the sophistication of that VOC – voice of the customer -analytics engine and platform. It was granular, meaning it could actually understand sentiment beyond “positive, negative and neutral” or “1-5″.
- It was mobile, meaning that the feedback could be reported via the iPhone, iPad or Android platform making it ready for the field and real time analysis, presented in the ways that a user could want.
- It had a limited but still valuable focus on action rather than just listening. They added the feed for the the Twitter Firehose to their social media toolset – meaning you could not only see any or all of the tweet streams but respond to an individual tweet. This is important because despite the mantra “it starts with listening” as Esteban Kolsky says and I agree wholeheartedly, it doesn’t start with listening, it starts with action.
- They have a strong global partner network which includes Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Lithium, Teradata, Vovici among others – which reflects a strong desire for integration. On the SI/Consulting side they have IBM, EDS, SAIC, Cap Gemini SD&M and Northrup Grumman among others – which tells me that they are public sector prone. This is one of the more unusual combinations of systems integration partnerships and to me a creative one – that bodes well for them. Very well. They have genuine heavyweights in their corner with some like SAIC and EDS not on anyone else’s radar
- Finally, their growth is unmistakable. They grew (according to them) 100% in revenues and customers in 2010, primarily in the large enterprise space.
That said where would I be without concerns? Far be it from me to give anyone a complete pass. I do have some concerns that are mostly unresolved questions about their messaging. This is a company that really comes from the analytics space, yet their Biz360 acquisition is starting to shift perception of them to a social media monitoring company and when I speak to customers (not of theirs) about what they think Attensity is (if they’ve heard of them) SMM is where the perception sits. Not good. Their value is in their excellent analytics engines and platforms. The SMM reporting is value add, not their core. That needs to be fixed.
Their outreach to influencers is good but not fabulous. They don’t need to do lots more. They need to be better at what they do. That means a more structured approach to the world of journalists/analysts and influencers, since as a company grows up, especially if its aimed at the large enterprise world, it needs programs that are successful and repeatable. Not just informal and very cool. Though that helps.
This is a smart group of folks with a solid game plan in place so I imagine, once they clear up their messaging they will be on my list in 2012 too and that will be because of another successful year of revenues and customers. That’s why they’re here now.
Kickapps. Hmmm. I’m putting a company on this list that I never met anyone from. They’ve made no attempt to ever contact me. (Sniff. I’m hurt. I’m just so hurt. )They don’t show up much in the “official mind share channels” (a group I just made up). Yet…here they are.
Why? Because, when it gets down to it, this company is SOLID. Really SOLID. Meaning they have a SOLID portfolio that with the release of their 5.0 version they call a “Social CMS” system, (I’ll ignore their claim of “industry’s first” which really is neither here nor there) which includes:
- A platform – the aptly named “Kickapps Platform” which is what it sounds like – a platform built around the idea of providing media for engaging customers, a social graph engine that collects the data that results from the interaction and a flexible architecture that allows independent designers to create plug-ins – a small library that are built with the Adobe Open Source Framework are offered on the site. They call the platform a “social media operating system.” They even have the tools to support it, a drag and drop little baby (I’ve heard very good things about it) called App Studio. While I can’t say they’re all that creative in the naming of things, they have what they need for customization provided with their platform and they have a small phalanx of development partners and a client services team of their own to make sure that its customized.
- They have the applications that sit on top of the architecture that include what you are likely to need if you don’t want to do it yourself (known here as DIY – no, that’s DUI – driving under the influence. What’s WRONG with you?). For example, they have what they call social media apps (again, descriptive but not creative) which include comments and ratings engines, threaded forums, and a content (user generated or otherwise) publishing system; they have social business/collaboration apps that are geared toward e20 internal communities for employees built around collaboration, idea generation and knowledge repositories; and finally (though not exclusively) they have marketing and customer service apps (Ahhh. CRMish) that are probably their most interesting and certainly their most distinctive. In addition to the expected customer service community tools, they have a social ecommerce tool that builds social marketplaces online and a contesting tool that designs what it sounds like – contests – for the “crowd.” They also have external ideation communities and strong feedback engine.
In other words, this product set kicks….not apps….butt. Now, all that would be great in name but not necessarily in deed but their customer list genuinely stands out for both marquee sexy customers and for strong endorsements. They have a strong presence in sports and media, which are highly demanding customer bases – because the customers are fans – which, if you think about it, are among the most passionate of all customers. That means what it takes to satisfy them is well beyond the norm when it comes to customer engagement and interaction. Kickapps owns the National Hockey League (NHL) with all 30 teams using their platform and apps (though its interesting that I don’t see the NHL itself on the list). They have 5 National Football League teams – including the Washington Redskins, which of course, given how much of NY Giants fan I am, lowered their score. Kidding. Mostly. They also have an incredible array of TV stations, rock bands, award shows, retailers, magazines, pretty much you name it when it comes to what I always have called the “emotional verticals” – those industries which require a high degree of continuous engagement because of the involvement and passion of the customers/fans – from sports to retail (fashion).
So we are looking at a strong technology with powerful customization capabilities, a solid management team, an incredibly interesting set of marquee clients and a company that has a record of success.
But man, are they lacking in the realm of market impact and thought leadership. Or at least, given the fact that they are just built for social CRM markets, are they missing a huge opportunity here – where they could get a piece of a $16 billion marketplace that they really haven’t touched yet.
I’m not sure why this is – or, more accurately, isn’t. Again, I’ve never spoken to them at all. Unusual but true. But they woefully lack mindshare at even the basic level. I never hear their names in conversations with customers – oddly, even some of their customers. Some of their customers are companies I have associations with and it was surprising to see those names on the Kickapps customer list. Because I had never heard them from the customers themselves. They aren’t exactly top of mind anywhere.
Yet, Kickapps keeps rolling. They are funded, they keep getting customers, they have a well thought out business model and several ways to monetize partner relationships – making a relationship to them attractive. Not bad.
I have to hand it to them. They belong on this list and they did it by being solid and sexy without being visible. Quite a trick. Let’s see how 2011 treats them as the competition heats up. Or rather more importantly, how they treat 2011. Though they should fix this visibility thing. The cloak of invisibility is only cool in comic books. They have a great story to tell, now time for a storyteller.
When Jon Ferrara came onto my radar with Nimble about a year ago, I knew him as the guy who created Goldmine and sold it while it was still a good product many years ago. He was, as I saw it, a pioneer who was also a smart enough business guy to know when it was time to take your winnings and leave for other pastures – be they for grazing or for putting up new buildings.
He started talking to me about a product that he kept insisting was Social CRM which, from its description, had a lot of promise as a SCRM platform for small business. He was very targeted to this market and not really interested in any other one – a real positive in my book.
He showed me an alpha, and while it was impressive (this is in June 2010), it was what it was – an alpha version of a product with promise. Not much more than that.
But Jon did all his due diligence and in a very organized and yet humane way went after making sure that the contemporary influencers all were conversant with what he was doing with Nimble and he never varied in that message – its SCRM for small businesses – or will be when it finally releases.
Time passed and Jon was active in hiring some staff, getting some of the younger stars like Maria Ogneva, to handle his social media direction and Brenda Christensen, a PR industry veteran with a lot of contacts in the industry that mattered to him.
But more quietly, he was moving the product forward and took it to the point that he not only is set to release it this month but has an army of 300 small business resellers lined up to do it. No surprise here, his model for Goldmine was to build a vast reseller network – if I recall it reached over 9000 at one point. This is one of those why mess with success parts to the story.
The strength of the product as it stands right now is as an exceptional aggregator of social and more conventional contact information with the ability to dynamically see what’s going on with your individual contacts and accounts. It takes the feeds from all the expected social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and of course Gmail and Outlook and brings them together and merges them so that they are actually in an organized package. So what you have right now is the personal information management functionality that you would need if you were a smart contemporary small business. No more, no less.
But, what it doesn’t have at the moment is the basic CRM functionality that would make it fulfill its claim as a Social CRM product for small business – and it doesn’t integrate with the traditional ones yet either. But what I’ve been promised is that by the second quarter of 2011, the sales functionality that a small business needs – such as opportunity and lead management – will be released and part of the Nimble offering.
What I’m going on here, which is a little unusual for me, is faith to some extent. I’ve seen what Jon and his crew have done so far and its genuinely impressive, if you know the market he is explicitly targeting. It truly does it right – with some minor technical glitches here or there. But I’m presuming, given Jon’s sincerity, honesty in general and history of success that if he says the small business sales force automation functionality is going to be released by second quarter, then it will be. I have no reason to doubt him.
But there are things that need to be done yet, regardless of the care and feeding that have gone into this initial effort. There are a few small quirks here and there, which I won’t go into here but they are niggling, not critical. Fixes would be helpful.
One thing they need to do is be less “competitive” when it comes to their competition, in a manner of speaking. They have a quiet way of dissing the competition, far quieter than the big guys, but they do it. My stance on this is clear. Let your product speak for itself. There’s no need to attack the competition either publicly or behind the scenes. Bad strategy in the 21st century. As far as I’m concerned.
Given the buzz he’s created, the quality of the product so far and the promise it holds, Nimble belong on this list this year. The first general release of the product will be this month. They may be the first SCRM product for small business that I think actually may meet the standard. But right now, the operant term is “may.” I’m trusting that this will become “does.”
I’ve known INgage Networks since 2006, back when they were called Neighborhood America. I wrote one of my first “a company like me” posts on them back in 2008, because of their impressive, employee friendly culture – and I just really liked a lot of the people there (I still do).
I’ve seen the evolution of their product, a social networking platform, the past three years to something that is truly a strong application that I think is best used as a white label platform for businesses in diverse industries. It has the features both transactional and social that make a platform like this suited for things like ideation communities among other things, because of its strong crowdsourcing features like ranking, rating and reputation engines. They even have a mobile platform that came from their acquisition of Movo several years back that stands up with any mobile platform in their space.
Their strength has shown itself superbly in the public sector. This is in part because of their origination as a public comment platform and because of their continuing affinity for governments as agencies for constituent engagement, an area of thought leadership that they actually concern themselves with. What interests me a great deal, and is one of the main reasons that they are on this list this year is that they are actually smart on the concept of Government 2.0 – and frankly think more clearly on it than a lot of the agencies that they serve. I won’t wax too enthusiastically about their public sector portfolio but it ranges from from city departments to federal agencies. It covers agencies that are focused on environment, on emergency response, on economic development, on city planning…you know the drill. They also have a growing quasi-public presence too with clients in health care and higher education. In fact, their marquee project might very well be the partnership they have with Michigan State University.
Their client list shows some power in the commercial world too especially in areas like media and entertainment with ABC, Home and Garden Network, NASCAR and others using their socnet platform for things like H&G’s Rate My Room – with measurable results.
All that in mind, I have some concerns – enough so that 2011 becomes for them, at least in my eyes, more than just another year in the life for them.
While they’ve done a good job of outreach to analysts on an informal basis, they’ve made thought leadership too much of an internal matter. One of the ways that thought leadership gets established especially in the social space which of course dovetails with SCRM, is that there is collaboration between the vendors and the influencers in ways that show a confluence of thinking on important ideas. When thought leadership appears to be generated internally, it seems to be nothing more than a way of saying “here are ideas that we push because they can sell our product” rather than working in conjunction with third parties who support the ideas agnostically. If the vendor-third party collaboration isn’t an option, then the idea is to do it the same way that Aplicor and SugarCRM do it with their respective ventures. Third parties are incorporated by aggregation and collaboration into a thought leadership vehicle that while sponsored by the company isn’t pushing company business. This is not the perception that is out there about INgage Networks, The wings have to be spread at INgage Networks in 2011 to create conditions not just for thought leadership but for market impact, something that they still lack to some extent.
Additionally, they have to step up the integrations with CRM applications and other social apps that are of importance to them. Right now, they have Microsoft CRM and they’ve done a GREAT job with that integration, but that’s not enough. The time is now to begin to spread those wings too.
If I can see the expanded wingspread in 2011, I’ll be a happier man because I like this company. But I expect more than I see right now despite their great technology and their awesome presence in the public sector, something that many companies could learn from.
In sum, that’s it for this episode of “As the Industry Turns.” Tune in next Tuesday for Episode 5 – Different Strokes (or in Swedish, Smörgåsbord)