SMC Austin Chapter hosts a conversation on Social Business

SMC Austin is held at the original Austin City Limits studio. Gorgeous venue.

Be there: Register today.

Just when you think you have all the answers, something crops up that challenges your beliefs on how Social Business works and will work in the future.   Whether it’s new platforms/tools, new regulation, organizational changes, even world events — the Social Business world does not stand still and learning in this space is highly iterative.  At Dachis Group and for our Social Business Council members, we face this reality day in and day out.  The good news on Social Business is there are ample opportunities to increase and share your learning.  To that end,  I’m going to be moderating a panel discussion on Social Business at the upcoming Social Media Club Austin meeting next week. (Tuesday, 8/16 from 6pm – 8pm CT).  I hope you can join us if you’re local, and if you’re not, I’m sure the tweet stream will be buzzing.  The twitter hashtag for Social Media Austin events is #SMCA.

We’ll have a great panel of vendors (who just happen to have great “user” experience as well) relating their own journeys on transforming their clients, as well as their own companies, to become fully-functioning Social Businesses.  There is a lot of collective wisdom represented on this panel of experts, so I hope you’ll join us in the conversation.  This will be my speaking debut to our awesome local Social Media Club chapter (most active club in the world, outside of San Francisco I hear).  I’m looking forward to mashing up my knowledge of the internal enterprise social space with the external expertise resident in this town, as well as meeting lots of new social enthusiasts.

On the panel we will have Jive’s Deirdre Walsh, who is somewhat of a hometown hero of mine as she led National Instruments‘ social strategy prior to joining Jive as Social Media Manager.  Then, we have the amazing Kat Mandelstein who has been a terrific champion for Social Business at IBM and one smart cookie on all things social.  Kat is also on the international board for the SMC and has done a great job supporting the Austin SMC chapter as Vice President.  The other two panelists are Will Staney of VMware (which recently acquired Socialcast) and Jean-Claude Monney of Microsoft.  I have not yet met Will or Jean-Claude, but have heard great things about them, so I look forward to hearing their insights.  Will has an impressive background in introducing social media and adoption of social technology at VMWare with a  solid foundation in community management and new media strategy. Jean-Claude leads Microsoft’s technical strategy in the Discrete Manufacturing industry, chairs the Microsoft High Tech Customer Advisory Board and represents Microsoft as the chair of the OAGi High Tech Council, a global B2B standards organization.

In preparation for the panel, we’re soliciting your questions ahead of time so we can get them into the session.  Don’t be shy.  Let us fashion the panel to suit your interests.

Send us questions you’d like to hear answered.

See you there!



Jive: Keepin’ it Real

Flickr by chrissuderman
Flickr by chrissuderman

You know that feeling when you have to take a random trip to the mall and when you get there, the entire mall and every retail establishment has been magically transformed for the holiday shopping season?  Wow.  It’s not even close to Thanksgiving, you think… But sure enough, you find yourself a little excited, a little sentimental, a little anxious about the fact that the holidays are upon us.  It’s an emotional, a psychological reaction that launches a number of triggers that will ultimately lead to the consumer behavior the retailers are banking on.

That’s how I felt the first day at SAP Tech Ed, SAP’s annual education extravaganza.  I had never been to an SAP Tech Ed before, and wasn’t sure what to expect.  In the first twenty minutes after I arrived at the newly renovated, cavernous Phoenix Convention Center, I started hearing the words collaboration, transparency, and social.  And it wasn’t from the blogger’s corner, I was hearing these words from SAP executives and customers.  The event was suddenly, surprisingly relevant to me in a way that I did not anticipate, nor that I was prepared for.  It was magical.

And similar to my experience visiting the mall and being greeted by a re-themed holiday shopping bonanza, the event launched a numbers of triggers for me.  The first trigger was excitement.  SAP gets it! I beamed to myself.  For so long, it appeared SAP corporate was just not interested in the Enterprise 2.0 agenda.  As recently as last SAPPHIRE (April), SAP’s massive annual customer and partner event, I was grousing about the fact that 2.0 was all but completely absent on the agenda or the trade show floor.

The second trigger was anxiety.  At the same time as SAP TechEd, Oracle was holding its famed Oracle OpenWorld. Keeping a CPA eye on the tweet stream, it occurred to me that Oracle was “getting it” too.  As I write this, Microsoft is amassing its fan-adulating entourage in Las Vegas where it will announce the long-awaited SharePoint 2010 which has been predicted to be the e20 startup killer.  And, lastly IBM got this a long time ago which completes the MISO (Microsoft, IBM, SAP, and Oracle) four horsemen of the 2.0 apocalypse.  The combined market strength of the enterprise vendors to persuade and advance their particular offering signals an unmistakable step change in the heretofore teensy Enterprise 2.0 sector evolution.  The big boys are moving in with their big marketing budgets and massive sales organizations.  Not to be discounted either is Google whom unless you’ve been trapped floating above the earth in a homemade helium balloon, or hiding in an attic closet, you know has recently launched Google Wave: its impressive collaborative, real-time sharing platform.  The other one I suppose I shouldn’t leave out is Cisco who’ve been re-tooling their go-to-market messaging around a fluid collaboration theme for months now.

Why does this tacit endorsement of e20 by the large enterprise vendors prompt my anxiety?  Because I’m concerned they’ll dominate the discussion; maybe suppress innovation, dilute the passion that has historically fueled interest in e20.  It’s hard to predict what the effects of mainstream promotion will be for e20, but one thing is for sure, e20 is about to bust out of the echo-chamber.

I started this post on the plane ride home from SAP’s TechEd (USA) two weeks ago now.  Yesterday I was pre-briefed on Jive’s new announcements coming with its SBS 4.0 platform.  Whatever real anxiety I felt about the big boys moving into the space has now been dissipated.

It takes a startup like Jive to inject innovation, creativity, passion, and excitement to this sector.  Jive is releasing a ground-breaking set of features that will set a new high bar for excellence in the category.  I’m certain the tech bloggers will cover the announcements in depth, but in brief, Jive is announcing an iPhone app (plus an email-driven enriched BlackBerry experience), very slick MS Office integration, and a bridging capability that will unite internal and external communities.  All this in addition to the series of announcements Jive made previously that include social media monitoring and a SharePoint connector.

What’s significant about the Jive announcements is the company’s commitment to releasing timely, innovative new capabilities in response to customer feedback and requests.  I’m here at JiveWorld, the company’s first customer event.  From the energy circulating in the crowd here, it’s obvious to me Jive is customer-driven and loyalty from Jive’s customers handily delivers repeat revenue as well as product improvements.

Jive’s ability to manage the books, pay careful attention to its user base, invest in educating its partners and employees, rationally identify its target market, as well as manage its growth effectively squarely positions the company uniquely from other startup competitors in the space.  Further, it accentuates the advantage startups have over the large enterprise vendors where releases are timed in years, not months.

So, as the e20 market twists and turns to accommodate innovation, advancement, and welcome step changes in attitude and strategic direction, one thing is guaranteed—all of this progress benefits customers.  Customers have a hard enough time getting this job done, so thank goodness, vendors like Jive are making it easy to accelerate adoption and experimentation with 2.0 tools and philosophies.

Atlassian’s Confluence 2.9 embraces “legacy work”

Making a deeper commitment to Microsoft, Atlassian acquired one of its community partners, Benryan Software and released its SharePoint Connector for Confluence 2.9. Additionally, the company incorporated over 150 user requests into the latest release and added 10 new production plugins. Benryan has a MS Office connector to Confluence (known fondly by existing users as the word/dav plug-in*) that makes it simple to import all Word Docs (in one to multiple pages), and to edit them in Confluence. You can also view Excel, PowerPoint, and Word docs within a Confluence wiki page and edit them. Also announced is the commercial release of its SharePoint connector. Some key features include the ability to embed Confluence content within SharePoint, bi-directional navigation (link SharePoint content within Confluence and vice versa), federated search (confluence searches reach into SharePoint), and security unification (immediate access: SharePoint permissions and unified security).

For a more detailed explanation of all the goodies in the new release, see @SarahinTampa‘s post on RWW, “Wiki Editing Just Got Easier: Atlassian Confluence Releases Office Connector.”

Jeff Walker, President of Atlassian, briefed a few of us bloggers last week on the announcement. What’s interesting to me is how the company framed the announcement in language like, “We are embracing the Microsoft and Outlook world.” Jeff explained how there are lots of folks out there in corporate America who are “comfortable with Office documents.” Well, true dat, homeboy. IMHO the more sensible we can make the transition for corporate America to 2.0 working, the better. I hope we’ll see more 2.0 startups embracing the legacy installed base of enterprise 1.0 workers and workware.

Check out the MS Office Connector:

*For existing users who have the word/dav plug-in, there have been some major improvements and bug fixes to the software that are appearing within 2.9. And now that it is an Atlassian plugin, it is fully supported by the company, as well. The newer version is completely free to existing customers with current licenses. Bad news? Firefox 3.0 is currently not supported, however the company expects to resolve the issue shortly.

Microsoft hooks up at Web 2.0.

I’m a little late on Microsoft’s Atlassian and Newsgator news from last week’s announcement coming out of the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Conference. Scrappy, but solid, little Atlassian (whom you know I just love*) was anointed this year’s wiki-mate (pun intended) for SharePoint 2007. (As opposed to last year’s which was Socialtext). I have to admit, I’m still not clear on how the Confluence wiki is preferable to the Socialtext wiki for SharePoint, but admittedly, I’m not an expert in wiki technology or SharePoint for that matter. I am a wiki user, however, of Socialtext. In the spirit of 2.0 transparency, Redmonk’s James Governor makes an attempt at clearing up the differences with Ross Mayfield chiming in on the comments.

If you need to know more about this, please read Dan Farber, Richard McManus, or see Scoble’s interview with Mike and Jeff for technical details on the announcement.

What interested Jevon and I as we IM-chatted about this last week was how serious was Microsoft about the relationships? Obviously, the company issued a press release, but is this any more than Microsoft showing up to this year’s Web 2.0 party with two “it” girls on its arm– Atlassian and Newsgator? Both startups are sexy and independent rising stars on their own. Yet, both firms could benefit from Microsoft’s large footprint in the enterprise, as well as the success SharePoint 2007 seems to be on track for (topping $800M this summer).

So the announcement is very good for both startups, but does it reveal anything about Microsoft’s plans for a long-term Enterprise 2.0 product road map? Another fellow Enterprise Irregular who has had confidential briefings at Microsoft told me that, “discussions are going on at the highest levels to address this.” Additionally, he pointed out that Steve Ballmer doesn’t make conference appearances willy nilly. “The fact that Ballmer was there demonstrates Microsoft is committed to a long-term strategy here, even if the short term strategy looks more like marketing.”

The bottom line for me is: regardless of who is selling and evangelizing behind the walled gardens and firewalls of EnterpriseGlobal, this particular announcement introduces rich enterprise 2.0 capabilities to a community that has been slow to respond to web 2.0 for the enterprise. That fact alone elicits a big “YaY!” from me.

It’s actually the NewsGator announcement that may give SharePoint customers a taste of “addicting” social networking features for large companies. After the demo NewsGator gave me last week, I pinned down Brian Kellner, Director of Product Management, on the five key benefits for SharePoint users. From a technical perspective they are:

  1. Discovery. With NewsGator Social Sites it’s easier to find people and content. It’s also easier to digest larger profiles of content that is interesting.
  2. Content IN. It’s easier to bring content into SharePoint in the form of press releases/blogs– all fresh content.
  3. Content OUT. It’s easier to send content back out in a single click with push notifications to several platforms and devices including mobile.
  4. Increased usability for SharePoint. NewsGator has added “Ajax-y goodness” so users can mark items as read, use pop-ups, etc., without page refresh.
  5. Lightens the Load for IT. As page loads draw off the enterprise server, it lightens the load off SharePoint.

But after talking to Jeff Nolan this weekend, he convinced me social networking was the killer feature for this announcement. Jeff said it’s the “seeing what your colleagues are posting and commenting on” similar to Plaxo’s Pulse that is going to add a nice dimension to SharePoint. Brian left this comment on a SharePoint customer’s blog that sums it up:

Social Sites does 4 things for SharePoint:
– Bring in content from many feeds, filtered and focused for a site with the ability to mark things read and tag items
– Easy, one-click subscription and routing of SharePoint changes – I have SharePoint blog posts going to a desktop notifier and document library changes going to my blackberry for example
– Better discovery and usability – Social Sites provides a quick scan page including a tag cloud (you can put the tag cloud web part on any / all of your team sites), a view of the top moving feeds, and most active users
– Easy discovery of expertise and interests. You can click on an author or tagger’s name to get a mini profile or view a full profile page and see tags, top subscriptions, saved items, and more for that user.

SocialSites Profile Page

In the past few posts, I’ve been complaining about the enterprise application vendors, but jeepers– SAP has truly been stepping up to the plate (I personally can’t wait to see if they commercialize Harmony), IBM clearly gets this, Microsoft is now dating and cooking up bigger plans, all we have left is Oracle. Oracle is hosting its OpenWorld Conference in a few weeks, which ironically, is not so open to bloggers. Via a Tweet from Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang earlier today at Oracle’s Lunch 2.0 event, we heard “Oracle is giving demos of their enterprise 2.0 apps. some are very promising but others need a major overhaul.” I look forward to reading the reports over the next few weeks regarding Oracle’s plans. So there you have it. The enterprise apps vendors are on the move.

Finally, I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning an alternative to SharePoint if you want great collaboration and social networking performance in the enterprise without the SharePoint experience. (Jeff and I also got into the “does SharePoint (um) suck or rock?” question. Suffice it to say there is evidence on both sides of that debate.) And of course, let’s not forget both Newsgator and Atlassian’s Confluence are available without SharePoint. That being said…

Check out ThoughtFarmer.

thoughtfarmer screen shot

I met these guys out at Office 2.0, but was tipped off to them again from Jevon. Chris McGrath, co-creator, told me ThoughtFarmer started out as a SharePoint project, but they ended up scrapping it and building their own. Granted, it was then SharePoint 2003, which even Jeff Nolan says, “definitely s**ed.”

Again, the good news here is there are strong reasons why enterprises can look seriously now at these web 2.0 technologies for the enterprise. The mission is now persuading them why they would want to. It sounds trivial, but for those outside of the “get-it” inner circle, it’s not. More posts to come on this topic. Stay tuned.

*I took a bit of a risk by backing Atlassian early on when they were relatively unknown. Now, I’m glad I did. Like in sports, good teams win on fundamentals, and these guys knew how to please customers and grow a business.