Jive finishes up my enterprise disruption week

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This week I’ve touched base with Panorama Software, socialtext, and now with Jive Software. Jive continued the trend I discussed a couple of days ago about enterprise disruption.

You are meeting quite a few of the companies that are disrupting the older players and trying to, as Jive’s CMO xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, said, open up a new social space inside companies. Hope you’re enjoying this look at the players. We’ll bring you others after CES.

Anyway, here’s Sam Lawrence of Jive Software, who talks with me about the economy, how they are competing with Sharepoint, and that they are working on a new version to be released in March.

The story of 2009? Enterprise disruption?

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In addition to the interview I did yesterday with socialtext, which explores some of the disruption coming to enterprises, there’s another trend I’m tracking: the coming fight between the collaborative web and Microsoft.

Now some pundits in the industry think that the fight will be head on. Not me. I think it’ll be more parasitic. Like how mold takes over a strawberry. Slow, but in the end the strawberry dies.

Is that what we’re seeing now? Well, here’s something that is a small piece of the bigger trend. You could call it a few cells of mold on the strawberry, if you’d like.

What is it? Panorama Software for Google Apps. I shot two videos with Oudi Antebi, VP of marketing and strategy of Panorama Software. Never heard of them? Neither had I, but what they are doing is very disruptive to bigger companies:

Part I. Where we discover what is happening in the Business Intelligence space and learn what Panorama Software is doing. (This video is embedded above).
Part II. Demo of how the Panorama gadget is used to display real-time data.

So, why did this catch my eye? First, they are taking something very expensive, Business Intelligence charting and dashboarding, and making it free. That alone is pretty disruptive. When Microsoft is charging $a few hundred a seat (and Microsoft is disrupting lots of other players in the market who charge a lot more than that) you know there’s disruption when some new player comes along and under prices everyone.

But don’t focus on that disruption.

Instead, look at the bigger picture. Here they are using Google spreadsheets to bring you live, collaborative, business intelligence. Watch the second video to see how different this is from most of the “old-school” approaches that haven’t yet built on a platform designed for the web from the start.

See that’s the real disruption: there’s a new platform being built. Right now it’s ugly and incomplete. But every year it gets better and better. Will 2009 be the year when lots of you try out a web-based collaboration suite like the ones from Zoho or Google?

I am sensing “yes” is the answer. Why? The economy is forcing big companies to cut every cost they can and this stuff is not only lower cost (often free, or a few bucks a month) but it also is much more productive. Now anyone in a group can update a spreadsheet and everyone in the company can see that activity in real time.

This is very powerful and useful. I remember visiting Printing for Less a few years back. They had graphs like this on their intranet for all their employees. But now anyone can build them for very little money.

And keep watching, this stuff isn’t only for Google. It is for Salesforce.com and other enterprise data.

After the cameras were off he showed me something else they are working on for 2009. He swore me to secrecy, but I can say this, if what he showed me comes out a lot of things will be flipped and a lot of people will finally get some use out of the collaborative world.

The other question for 2009 is will Microsoft’s slow efforts to “webize” its Office Suite be enough to keep these trends at bay for another year? My gut feeling? Microsoft is so strong and so well capitalized and living off of the continued strong momentum that it won’t be hurt in 2009 but by the end of the year most pundits will start noticing the fuzz on the strawberry and will start asking deep questions of Microsoft’s leadership.

Who said that enterprise software was boring?

The view of economy from Palo Alto's socialtext

Socialtext is one of those companies that got started during the last downturn and has played an important role in the valley’s startup culture for the past few years (they hosted the first BarCamp, for instance). So yesterday I went over to have a chat with founder Ross Mayfield and CEO Eugene Lee. We discussed mostly the economy, but a little bit about the enterprise software and services that socialtext sells. Socialtext started as a company that sold wikis to enterprises, but has expanded that into a social collaboration and productivity suite that’s doing very well. While I was in the office two sizeable sales came in from two big companies.

Eugene Lee was an executive at Cisco when Cisco had to lay a lot of people off during the last downturn, so he talks about that too. I split the interview up into three pieces:

Part I. What will happen to both large and small companies during downturn? What are they seeing from their enterprise customers? (Hint: record sales so far this quarter but great uncertainty for next year).
Part II. Discussion of corporate pain of email.
Part III. Ross tells me about socialtext’s alumni network and how that can help both companies and workers who are laid off.

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The Enterprise Soft Spot, er, the Enterprise Email Crisis

Yesterday I spoke to thousands of Cisco’s employees. That itself was a pretty cool experience. In front of me was a live audience along with several video cameras. To my side was one of their telepresence systems. They had people all over the world who I could talk with and ask questions of. You’ve probably seen their latest advertisments. In experience of using one of these systems you forget that the people you are talking with are thousands of miles away. Telepresence systems are helping Cisco become far smaller, intimate, etc. Plus it’s saving them millions in travel costs, several of the executives from Cisco have told me. But I digress.

At one point during the presentation someone asked me what I’d do if I were trying to apply Web 2.0 techniques inside an Enterprise. I answered “every day I’d try to come up with some way to avoid using email.” I almost said it half in jest but was a little surprised when a sizeable cheer came from the audience.

I had hit the Enterprise soft spot, er, the Enterprise Email Crisis (can we have a bailout for our email bankruptcy?).

There is a lot of hatred of email inside Enterprises, I’ve learned. I knew that already, because of my experience working at Microsoft. But since then I forgot that big companies generate far too much wasteful email. We can go into why it’s wasteful later, but since we’re in the middle of the economic crisis, I’ve been trying to find companies that are strong enough to survive any storm.

I am looking for companies that solve REAL pain in enterprises and that deliver real benefits to bottom lines and productivity. It’s going to be those companies that will survive lean times, just like during the last tech downturn it was the new blogging companies that blew away the far more expensive and complicated content management companies.

How about Zoho, Mindtouch, and Socialtext as candidates? Yeah, I know there’s plenty of others, but these three have already told me about real deployments. Zoho just announced a deal with GE. Socialtext, last week, told me about a few deployments that they asked me not to talk about in public. And yesterday Mindtouch’s CEO, Aaron Fulkerson visited me with a list of companies that are using its services, including Intel, Mozilla, U.S. Army, and Microsoft.

Fulkerson is one heck of a committed dude. He has tattooed his company’s logo onto his leg. Now THAT is taking an “I won’t fail no matter what” attitude to the end of the field. You should listen to what he’s seeing in the marketplace and how he’s differentiating himself from bigger competitors. It’s very interesting to me that he sees open source and APIs as being a way to weather the upcoming economic storm. Interesting too that the company is bootstrapped with friends and family money, so they won’t feel the pressure to show short-term value like they would feel if they were VC funded.

In a separate video (embedded below) he shows me his service and gives me a taste of why his service reduces the email load.

So, why is email the Enterprise Soft Spot?

A couple of reasons.

1. When I left my job at NEC after working there for a year I left with 1.5 gigs of email. Neither I nor the company had access to that even though there was TONS of valuable data in there for my replacement. Things like shortcuts in SAP to find important inventory data for our group. Or important people at other companies to know. Getting that data into someplace where other employees can get to it is still way too hard, even when I worked at Microsoft with really cool Sharepoint servers all over the place.

2. The “n*n” problem. Let’s say you have to produce a press release that 10 people have to be involved in. Either to help produce it, or approve it. So, you fire up Microsoft Word. Type a while. Save. Then email it to the 10 people. Problem is, what if each of those 10 need to make a change to the document? They open up the document, reply all, and send around their revisions. All of a sudden there are 100 emails in the system and a huge revision problem for someone to solve.

Mindtouch and Socialtext and Zoho (and many others) are all solving those two problems (A couple of weeks ago I got a demo of Socialtext’s new offerings too).

It’ll be interesting to see how these new companies will swoop in and try to close deals over the next year. If they are successful, these will be among the best positioned to lead us out of the economic troubles. If they aren’t, it’ll be interesting to watch what they did wrong and/or whether bigger companies like Microsoft, with its Sharepoint suite, effectively responded to this new market need clearly is unsatisfied so far.

What do you think? Are you seeing the same Enterprise soft spot? Who is best positioned in your mind to solve the email crisis in big companies?

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Exclusive video: SocialText brings enterprise Facebook and Twitter to wikis

Socialtext is making big news all over the Web this morning. Here’s a rundown, later in the post I’ll talk about why. I also have an exclusive video of Ross Mayfield, founder of Socialtext demonstrating the new features to me.

Ross Mayfield, for my cell phone camera last night, explains the changes in this 18-minute video.

Ross Mayfield, co-founder of Socialtext, writes on his blog “Hello Socialtext 3.0!”

BusinessWeek: Socialtext 3.0: Will Wikis Finally Find Their Place in Business?

Webware: Socialtext co-founder: Enterprise Twitter isn’t enough.

eWeek: Socialtext Signals Marks Wiki Provider’s Move into Enterprise Microblogging.

Dawn Foster notes the move of Enterprises to social.

Zoli Erdos says “Socialtext Becomes Really Social.”

ZDNet: “Socialtext enters Twitter for Enterprise sweepstakes.”

TechCrunch writes “SocialText 3.0 blends Facebook, Twitter, and the Enterprise.”

So, why are these changes important? Because they bring the social features that many people have gotten to know on Twitter and Facebook into the Enterprise along with advanced wiki functionality.

Is this bleeding edge stuff? Yes, for the enterprise it is. And Socialtext is already seeing some big “Fortune 50” pickup.

I can hear the critics now: “who needs another Twitter or Facebook at work?” But if you watch the video, you’ll see why these features make a new kind of collaboration possible.

It’s nice to see Socialtext succeed, they hosted the first Barcamp in their offices and now they are pushing ahead of the world again.