Tag Archives: community

Telligent Gains Leverage on Its Cloud and Mobile Roadmaps

Telligent Systems, Inc. announced on Monday that it had acquired Leverage Software, a competing provider of enterprise social capabilities used to support communities and customer relationship management efforts (see press release). The deal closed at around 10:00am CST, after about two months of discussions and paperwork, according to Telligent’s Founder and CTO, Rob Howard, and Wendy Gibson, Telligent’s CMO. Leverage’s brand and people will be integrated into Telligent starting immediately, and technology integration will occur some time in 2012.

At first glance, this seemed like a straight-forward acquisition with a clear purpose. That initial impression was validated upon speaking with Howard and Gibson shortly after the news broke. Telligent gains several strategic pieces that will strengthen its offerings through the acquisition of Leverage, including cloud, mobile, and analytics technology; people with .NET and iOS development skills; and some marquee customers.

The single largest impact of the acquisition will be an accelerated delivery of Telligent’s cloud offerings roadmap. Telligent Community is available today in a hosted, single-tenant version only. Leverage Software’s platform was built on a multi-tenant SaaS architecture in 2003, so they have extensive experience in the cloud. Both vendor’s products and services are built on .NET and other Microsoft technologies, which should ease the transformation of Telligent Community (and, most likely, Enterprise) to a multi-tenant architecture. Additionally, the rich API set of Telligent’s Evolution platform should speed the integration of the vendors’ offerings in the near term. When asked, Howard noted that Telligent will continue its existing, early-stage efforts to build and deliver functionality on Microsoft’s Azure infrastructure.

Telligent’s mobile capabilities will also receive a boost from the Leverage Software acquisition. Leverage has developed an iOS-native version of Leverage Community, which is sold through Apple’s iTunes Store. Earlier this year, Telligent introduced tools in its Evolution platform that extend Telligent Community and Telligent Enterprise to Apple’s iPhone, as well as Blackberry and Android devices. However, Telligent does not offer device-specific versions of its products. With their experience, Leverage’s developers should be able to change that fairly quickly, at least for iPhone and iPad. Telligent has previously discussed plans to build HTML5-compliant versions of its community applications as well.

Leverage Software claims to support 250 communities, with 15% of the Fortune 100 as customers. Well-known brands such as The Home Depot, Pearson, and Wells Fargo have demonstrated the scalability and effectiveness of Leverage’s technology. Telligent’s Gibson remarked that they are very pleased to be adding Leverage’s customers to their portfolio and that they would begin on-boarding them soon after the brands have been united.

Unlike some of its more marketing driven competitors, Telligent has grown its business the old-fashioned way, by quietly delivering a platform and applications that have helped customers meet well-defined, community-centric business objectives. The company has a loyal and highly enthusiastic customer base. Now, with the acquired assets of Leverage Software, Telligent is poised to accelerate its growth, as well as the success of its customers and their internal and external communities.

One other thing has been accelerated as a result of this acquisition – the consolidation of the Enterprise Social Software market. It will be interesting to watch Telligent in 2012, as it will likely make other acquisitions in order to offer additional functionality on its platform. Telligent would also be an attractive acquisition for a larger vendor seeking an extensible, Microsoft-centric enterprise social software platform. Either way, next year will be an interesting one for Telligent and its customers.

This entry was cross-posted from Meanders: The Dow Brook Blog. Telligent Systems, Inc. is a Dow Brook Advisory Services client.

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The AIIM Community: Status Quo Prevails, but Change is Happening

This entry was cross-posted from Meanders: The Dow Brook Blog

I attended the AIIM Info360 Conference and Expo last week, in Washington, DC. It was my first AIIM event in 9 years. I had stayed away intentionally, because AIIM and the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) community had stagnated. Business and technology were changing, but the AIIM community remained fixated on things like document capture, storage, output, and archival. Sharing of, and collaborating on, active content was largely ignored.

Lately, I’ve been signs of renewal from AIIM’s leadership and staff, including an active, purposeful embrace of collaboration and social computing as important components of information management. (For example, AIIM published a paper on Systems of Engagement, authored by Geoffrey Moore, in January and a Social Business Roadmap in conjunction with last week’s conference.) So I thought it would be good to attend the event after my long absence, to learn first-hand whether or not change really was occurring in the AIIM community. The verdict:

Parts of the AIIM community remain deeply rooted in the past. The members who are trying to become more current and relevant are so busy talking about business and technology trends that they’ve lost focus on solving specific business problems.

First a word about the part of the community stuck in the past. Wandering the conference show floor made it crystal clear that the majority of the software and hardware vendors present were there to sell to the legacy AIIM crowd. I saw booth after booth touting imaging and other capture hardware and software, management solutions for electronic (and paper!) documents, and industrial-strength printing machines and software. Enough said.

The show floor did include a few vendors addressing the minority of the AIIM community interested in moving toward more lightweight, collaborative content management practices. Included in that group of vendors were Box.net, EMC/Documentum, Microsoft SharePoint, and NewsGator.

One other thought about the show floor: the Web Content Management vendors were noticeably absent. It seems that they’ve moved on from the AIIM community, probably for a variety of reasons. I hope they will come back soon and try again to push the conceptual boundaries of content management in both large organizations and small-to-medium businesses.

The keynote speeches and the few breakout sessions I attended were more visionary than the majority of the exhibits. Keynoters reported on high level trends affecting how businesses create, consume, share and generally manage content. The vendors who had bought keynote spots also presented visions of content management that made their respective, revised market strategies seem irrefutable.

Similarly, most of the breakout sessions I went to presented fairly high level pictures of how content technologies are evolving and where they are (or should be) headed. There were some exceptions, including a session that I co-presented with Dan Levin, COO of Box.net, on current, real-life use cases for mobile content sharing. However, sessions that focused on how the emerging breed of content management practices and supporting technologies can help solve newer (as well as old) business problems were rare.

In short, there were two conferences taking place simultaneously at AIIM/Info360. The first can best be described as representing the status quo. The second can be summed up as follows:

SOCIAL, blah, blah, blah, COLLABORATION, blah, blah, blah, COMMUNITY, blah, blah, blah, ENGAGEMENT, blah, blah, blah, MOBILE, blah, blah, blah, CLOUD, blah, blah, blah, USABILITY, blah, blah, blah…

I applaud the changes that AIIM’s leadership and some forward-thinking members of the community are attempting to make. They have to start by finally acknowledging the macro trends that are occurring, then crafting and articulating a visionary response. This year’s conference did a very good job of that. I hope that by next year, presenters (speakers and exhibitors) at the AIIM show will move beyond the high level messages and discuss how managed sharing of active content can help solve specific business problems and enable organizations to take advantage of tangible opportunities.

LinkedIn Signal Demonstrates The Power of Role-Based Activity Stream Filters

LinkedIn today announced Signal, a new feature (currently in beta) that lets members see an activity stream that combines LinkedIn status updates and Twitter posts from other members who have opted-in to the feature. LinkedIn has licensed the Twitter firehose to incorporate all of its members’ tweets into the site, not just tweets with the #in hashtag embedded, as is current practice.

While it is hard to imagine anyone other than corporate and independent talent recruiters will make LinkedIn their primary Twitter client, Signal does have an element that is worthy of emulation by other social networks and enterprise social software providers that incorporate an activity stream (and which of those does not these days!) That feature is role-specific filters.

I wrote previously in this post about the importance of providing filters with which individuals can narrow their activity stream. I also noted that the key is to understand which filters are needed by which roles in an organization. LinkedIn apparently gets this, judging by the screenshot pictured below.

LinkedIn Signal screenshot courtesty of TechCrunch

Notice the left-hand column, labeled “Filter by”. LinkedIn has most likely researched a sample of its members to determine which filters would be most useful to them. Given that recruiters are the most frequent users of LinkedIn, the set of filters displayed in the screenshot makes sense. They allow recruiters to see tweets and LinkedIn status updates pertaining to LinkedIn members in specific industries, companies, and geographic regions. Additionally, the Signal stream can be filtered by strength of connection in the LinkedIn network and by post date.

The activity stream of every enterprise social software suite (ESS) should offer such role-based filters, instead of the generic ones they currently employ. Typical ESS filtering parameters include individuals, groups or communities, and workspaces. Some vendors offer the ability to filter by status as a collaborator on an object, such as a specific document or sales opportunity. A few ESS providers allow individuals to create custom filters for their activity stream. While all of these filters are helpful, they do not go far enough in helping individuals narrow the activity stream to view updates needed in a specific work context.

The next logical step will be to create standard sets of role-based filters that can be further customized by the individuals using them. Just as LinkedIn has created a filter set that is useful to recruiters, ESS providers and deploying organizations must work together to create valuable filter sets for employees performing specific jobs and tasks. Doing so will result in increased productivity from, and effectiveness of, any organization’s greatest asset – it’s people.

More on Microblogging: Evolution of the Enterprise Market

Following my post last week on the need for additional filters in enterprise microblogging tools and activity streams, I participated in an interesting Twitter conversation on the subject of microblogging and complexity. The spontaneous conversation began when Greg Lowe, a well-respected Enterprise 2.0 evangelist at Alcatel-Lucent, asked:

“Can stand alone micro-blogging solutions survive when platform plays introduce the feature?”

I immediately replied:

“Yes, if they innovate faster”

Greg shot back:

“is microblogging autonomy about innovation, or simple elegance? More features usually leads to lower usability?”

And, later, he asked a complementary question:

“is there a risk of Microblogging becoming “too complicated”?”

Is Greg on to something here? Do more features usually lead to lower usability? Will functional innovation be the downfall of stand-alone microblogging solutions, or will it help them stay ahead of platform vendors as they incorporate microblogging into their offerings?

One of the commonly heard complaints about software in general, and enterprise software in particular, is that it is too complicated. There are too many features and functions, and how to make use of them is not intuitive. On the other hand, usability is a hallmark of Web 2.0 software, and, if we make it too complex, it is likely that some people will abandon it in favor of simpler tools, whatever those may be.

But that dichotomy does not tell the entire story. Based on anecdotal evidence (there is no published quantitative research available), early adopters of Web 2.0 software in the enterprise appear to value simplicity in software they use. However, as a colleague, Thomas Vander Wal, pointed out to me yesterday, that may not be true for later, mainstream adopters. Ease-of-use may be desirable in microblogging (or any other) software, but having adequate features to enable effective, efficient usage is also necessary to achieve significant adoption. Later adopters need to see that a tool can help them in a significant way before they will begin to use it; marginal utility does not sway them, even if the tool is highly usable.

Simple may not be sustainable. As I wrote last week in this post, as enterprise use of microblogging and activity streams has increased and matured, so has the need for filters. Individuals, workgroups, and communities want to direct micro-messages to specific recipients, and they need to filter their activity streams to increase their ability to make sense out of the raging river of incoming information. Those needs will only increase as more workers microblog and more information sources are integrated into activity streams.

In the public microblogging sphere, Twitter provides a solid example of the need to add functionality to a simple service as adoption grows in terms of registered users and use cases. As more individuals used Twitter, in ways that were never envisioned by its creators, the service responded by adding functionality such as search, re-tweeting, and lists. Each of these features added some degree of complexity to the service, but also improved its usability and value.

In the evolution of any software, there is a trade-off between simplicity and functionality that must be carefully managed. How does one do that? One way is to continuously solicit and accept user feedback. That allows the software provider and organizations deploying it to sense when they are nearing the point where functionality begins to overwhelm ease of use in a harmful manner. Another technique is to roll out new features in small doses at reasonable intervals. Some even advocate slipping new features in unannounced and letting users discover them for themselves. Hosted deployment of software (whether on-premise or off-site) makes this easier to do, since new features are automatically switched on for people using the software.

So back to the original question; can stand-alone microblogging solutions fend off the collaboration suite and platform vendors as they incorporate microblogging and activity streams in their offerings? My definitive answer is “yes”, because there is still room for functionality to be added to microblogging before it becomes over-complicated.

Based on the historical evolution of other software types and categories, it is likely that the smaller vendors, who are  intensely focused on microblogging, will be the innovators, rather than the platform players. As long as vendors of stand-alone microblogging offerings continue to innovate quickly without confusing their customers, they will thrive. That said, a platform vendor could drive microblogging feature innovation if they so desired; think about what IBM has done with its Sametime instant messaging platform. However, I see no evidence of that happening in the microblogging sphere at this time.

The most plausible scenario is that at some point, small, focused vendors driving microblogging innovation (e.g. Socialcast, Yammer) will be acquired by larger vendors, who will integrate the acquired features into their collaboration suite or platform. My sense is that we are still 2-3 years away from that happening, because there is still room for value-producing innovation in microblogging.

What do you think?

Filtering Microblogging and Activity Streams

The use of microblogging and activity streams is maturing in the enterprise. This was demonstrated by recent announcements of enhancements to those components in two well-regarded enterprise social software suites.

On February 18th, NewsGator announced a point release to its flagship Enterprise 2.0 offering, Social Sites 3.1. According to NewsGator, this release introduces the ability for individuals using Social Sites to direct specific microblogging posts and status updates to individuals, groups, and communities. Previously, all such messages were distributed to all followers of the individual poster and to the general activity stream of the organization. Social Sites 3.1 also introduced the ability for individuals to filter their activity streams using “standard and custom filters”.

Yesterday (March 3rd), Socialtext announced a major new version of its enterprise social software suite, Socialtext 4.0. Both the microblogging component of Socialtext’s suite and its stand-along microblogging appliance now allow individuals to broadcast short messages to one or more groups (as well as to the entire organization and self-selected followers.) Socialtext 4.0 also let individuals filter their incoming activity stream to see posts from groups to which they belong (in addition to filtering the flow with the people and event filters that were present in earlier versions of the offering.)

The incorporation of these filters for outbound and incoming micro-messages are an important addition to the offerings of NewsGator and Socialtext, but they are long overdue. Socialcast has offered similar functionality for nearly two years and Yammer has included these capabilities for some time as well (and extended them to community members outside of an organization’s firewall, as announced on February 25th.) Of course, both Socialcast and Yammer will need to rapidly add additional filters and features to stay one step ahead of NewsGator and Socialtext, but that represents normal market dynamics and is not the real issue. The important question is this:

What other filters do individuals within organizations need to better direct microblogging posts and status updates to others, and to mine their activity streams?

I can easily imagine use cases for location, time/date, and job title/role filters. What other filters would be useful to you in either targeting the dissemination of a micro-message or winnowing a rushing activity stream?

One other important question that arises as the number of potential micro-messaging filters increases is what should be the default setting for views of outgoing and incoming messages? Should short bits of information be sent to everyone and activity streams show all organizational activity by default, so as to increase ambient awareness? Perhaps a job title/role filter should be the default, in order to maximize the focus and productivity of individuals?

There is no single answer other than “it depends”, because each organization is different. What matters is that the decision is taken (and not overlooked) with specific corporate objectives in mind and that individuals are given the means to easily and intuitively change the default target of their social communications and the pre-set lens through which they view those of others.

UPDATE (03/04/2010, 5:10pm Eastern): A commenter on this post at the Gilbane Group Blog made a really great point about how updates from Social CRM systems change the nature of activity streams. Here is his comment and my reply:

My Wish for the Enterprise 2.0 Community in 2010

The holidays are precious for the time that we spend with family and friends. At this time of the year, we remember what is most important to us — the people who make our lives better by loving and supporting us — and focus on interacting with them for some (but not enough) time.

In 2010, let us the focus on interactive relationships past the holidays and make it our most important work throughout the year. Not only in our personal lives, but in our professional activities as well. If we want Enterprise 2.0 to positively effect the way that business is done and make social business the new norm, it must begin with each of us. As individuals we need to:

  • reaffirm existing close relationships, strengthen weak ties, and make connections with new individuals inside and outside of the organizations in which we work
  • have more conversations that will build trust in and from our co-workers, business partners, and customers
  • listen better and be more aware of others’ needs, so we can help fulfill them whenever possible
  • be more open to the possibilities offered by working with others to create emergent solutions that meet the needs of the majority and create meaningful change

So here is my wish for next year. That the social interaction inherent in the holiday season becomes the norm for all of us in 2010. That we walk, talk, and breath the principles of community, openness, collaboration, emergence, trust, and mutual respect that embody successful social interaction every day of the new year. It is up to us to be the change in which we so firmly believe. Happy New Year!

Thought of the Day: November 20, 2009

A business enterprise is really nothing more than a large community. The organization, like any healthy community, is formed around a clear, common purpose and actively works to create specific outcomes. If that purpose is forgotten or becomes irrelevant, the company will slowly decay and, ultimately, fail.

The implication of this observation is that corporate managers must function like community managers — connecting people and facilitating conversations — if the organization is to successfully address its mission.