Jive SBS Launches

I spoke with Sam Lawrence at Jive about their new Social Business Software (SBS) product and came away impressed on two fronts, the first being that the product is wicked cool and perhaps more significantly they are skating to the proverbial puck rather than following in the footsteps of other companies.

Longtime Jive followers will notice something immediately, Clearspace and Clearspace Community have been retired as naming conventions. For SBS, the technologies represented in both of these products are now referenced as “Jive Foundation” which forms the underpinnings for the new products and initiatives.

200903100946.jpg Jive is looking at the market opportunity from the standpoint of what people do with the software, and that represents the work centers which map to a neatly presented perspective on what happens in all companies. Within each of these centers is a business process in which a social component is integral. Based on my own experience in very large companies, I think this is a realistic perspective and it’s worth noting that the overlap between centers is probably proportional not by design but based on what actually happens.

In addition to process centers there are cross application modules that allow for top down functions across the entire suite of services. Analytics represent an obvious cross application module but it was the Bridging Module that really captured my attention.

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What the Bridging Module enables is a federation of related communities for an integrated view. As an example, Kaiser is a Jive customer and with the Bridging Module any Kaiser user could add components that represent content and functionality in the American Heart Association community.

To be clear, this federation capability works exclusively with other communities that are built on Jive technology, but with 2,500 customers this is a significant list and represents the greatest strategic opportunity for Jive, to become a vertical industry standard where they have strong representation. This is class Law of Accelerating Returns stuff, a vendor will win more new business as a consequence of being perceived as the accepted standard by a group of competitors within a specific vertical industry.

In the “old days” we would have called these things portals but it’s really an understatement to reference any of these products that way now. Portals relied on a single vendor or approved partners to supply functionality that was unavoidably focused around a single vendor’s products and was also typically transactional data focused. With the emergence of unstructured content and social interactions being the bigger drivers of user focus, portals were poorly equipped to deal with this and it opened the door for a menu of competitive products to emerge, Jive being one of the more successful offerings.

A further data point that underscores the point above is that the technical specifications for what constitutes a portal component are less of an issue today, and as Jive and Socialtext both demonstrate, an OpenSocial widget is just as accepted as a native component. The evolution of widgets demands that they move beyond content and creative to social awareness, in other words, how the widget or component interacts with other components is of equal importance to what the widget or component itself does.

This is a pretty competitive sector and there are firm lines that are developing. Microsoft and IBM offer the biggest footprint enterprise social software stacks and as can be expected they are expensive and timely to implement but on the other hand they offer a lot of functionality and demonstrable ability to scale to very large user numbers while also offering strong integration options to other important enterprise products. Other vendors have emerged that challenge Microsoft and IBM, such as Jive, while another class is extending the big enterprise offerings (most significantly what NewsGator is doing on Microsoft Sharepoint). With a flight to quality as a consequence of current economic conditions, the large vendors will continue to dominate while challengers like Jive with extensive customer lists and mature product offerings will close the window for new startups to establish a foothold.

Today the focus in on what users are doing rather than what companies want them to do and Jive’s SBS is well positioned to take advantage of that with a compelling user experience, strong social functionality, a “marketplace” for third party components and federated community sites, and lastly, advanced functionality (e.g. analytics) that grow in importance as usage grows.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…

Check out this snapshot of Techmeme today. As is typically the case, Google scratches it’s left ear lobe and an entire industry of bloggers kicks into gear dissecting what it means. The NYTimes claims it’s a Microsoft Sharepoint killer while Allen Stern declares they are going after pbWiki. The AP wire report, which also runs in the NYT has a somewhat different view of this, calling it a website builder. Rafe Needleman makes the observation that it’s a nice wiki even though Google never uses the word wiki. TechCrunch also calls it a wiki and quotes a Google exec calling it a “Sharepoint killer”.

So what do we know for certain: it’s a wiki and they are targeting Sharepoint. What is not said? Sharepoint is much more than a wiki, it’s probably more accurately referred to as a portal, and the wiki features are acknowledged by MSoft to be very weak. Microsoft does feature wikis from both Socialtext and Atlassian as add-ons for Sharepoint, lending credibility to the notion that they don’t see themselves as competitive in the wiki space.

Google could in fact take on Sharepoint but it’s going to take a lot more than a better wiki to do it. For starters, I would make Google Sites an OpenSocial container, which should not be too difficult given the fact that the same people were involved in both projects.

Google Apps is in total a threat but at some point Google is going to have to do something more meaningful than the bits-n-pieces act. Dan points out that Google is fighting the stigma of offering lightweight apps, but as long as they fail to release numbers such as how many companies are actually paying Google for premium apps, it’s unlikely that the market will take them seriously. Businesses are not moved by the notion of free apps because buying an application really isn’t the barrier companies face, it’s supporting users and meeting requirements.

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