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Productivity Goes Social with Jive

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[qi:021] Can social web applications like blogs, wikis, and online communities make a company more productive? Enterprise collaboration company Jive Software thinks they can, by enabling social productivity — making things happen across ad hoc social networks instead of just relying on individual progress or within-the-workgroup collaboration.

But because social productivity, in contrast to individual or team productivity, aims more at innovation and insight than efficiency and economy, Jive faces a big challenge in demonstrating the benefits of their Clearspace collaboration software to potential customers.

What’s social productivity good for?

Jive Chief Marketing Officer Sam Lawrence defines social productivity like this:

[It’s] about getting work done outside the team of like-minded people you work with everyday. With social productivity, an idea is introduced and all sorts of people get to chime in on it. These could be people you work with a lot, people you’ve never worked with or even people outside your company. Now all of a sudden your idea has been developed openly by all sorts of people who bring their own, valuable perspective.

When would you need this kind of ad hoc collaboration across organizational boundaries? Maybe for ambiguous and uncertain projects and tasks where next steps and eventual destinations aren’t at all obvious — designing a breakthrough product or solving an especially thorny customer problem, for example. Such projects require conversations with people outside your workgroup, bursts of insight, and creative problem-solving, rather than discussions with current teammates, static knowledge, and pre-defined processes.

Using features like discussion forums, blogs, wikis, and document management, Clearspace links together corporate employees and their work processes with customers, prospects, developers, and other external collaborators and stakeholders. Clearspace offers both outward-facing online community capabilities along the lines of Drupal or Ning and internally-deployed knowledge management that competes with the likes of Microsoft’s (MSFT) Sharepoint.

Calculating ROI for social productivity tools

Here’s the challenge facing Jive: Demonstrate the benefits of social productivity in a way that makes sense to corporate executives. The enterprise IT market demands quantifiable return on investment, which is difficult to show when you’re talking about encouraging innovation and solving ambiguous problems rather than just making well-understood individual or workgroup processes more efficient and economical.

If the promises of social productivity tools prove out, companies deploying them should see improved customer responsiveness, more successful products, more enthusiastic user communities, and better financial results. Tying such benefits back to the use of social web tools won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible either, as early efforts to calculate the ROI of corporate blogging show (though granted, those emphasize public relations benefits rather than business productivity).

Jive’s Lawrence told me that his potential customers want social networking and other social tools but aren’t quite sure why yet. Let’s see if Jive can convince them that social productivity really is productive.

23 Responses to “Productivity Goes Social with Jive”

  1. I feel that collaboration in a business context needs some kind of organization, some structure – keeping in mind how businesses are worked to using. Wiki style collaboration, a page where anybody can publish anything, is too blank a canvas to be of much use. Social collaboration in the context of an organization is multi directional information flow within an organization, with customers, and with partners. And this information flow needs to take place within a structure, rather than a free for all. Teams need to be able to able to collaborate on team matters without outside noise. Customer service departments need to be able to communicate with customers and amongst themselves etc. and even within these different pockets, there needs to be information flow.

    the current intranet/extranet pages with productivity tools like file management, email, calendars, and some wiki capabilities, i feel satisfies the above needs to a large extent. it creates a delicate balance of structure and user friendliness, rather than a “chaos of freedom”

  2. The question of ROI is perhaps not so straightforward as you might expect. Certainly there are soft benefits that are easy to identify (such as better customer relationships) and they might have been sufficient for the “leading edge” companies to justify implementing a social network or online community a year or two ago. More and more frequently I am seeing enterprises ask for more. In my opinion, it is what those soft benefits yield that leads to a real ROI (i.e. better customer relationships lead to less churn, or higher sale revenue per customer, etc). Those specific results must be quantified and translated into a dollar value which is the hard part. Experience of what similar implementations have yielded is invaluable to calculate or support new project estimates.

    The best way I have found is to begin by identifying the business or customer problems an enterprise wants to address and then working through the value an organization will achieve by solving those problems. The cost of the social network or online community factors against the value and yields the ROI. The important thing is that how the social network or online community is used must be tied back to the enterprise or customer problem. Other unquantifiable or incidental benefits are just the cherries on top that might sway a borderline ROI but more often than not these days, they aren’t going to be the reason an enterprise proceeds with a social network.

    The Patty Seybold Group have done interesting work to define customer problems and define how they can be mapped onto business value.

    The other thing to remember about an ROI is that it is only relevant when a company has options. If the initiative is deemed strategic and the company has to complete it to remain viable, then sometimes a social network or online community is the only way to meet the need. In that case, defining an ROI is redundant.

    That is sometimes difficult for enterprise execs to swallow but I’ve seen the reality. For example, connecting a global partner network to stimulate channel sales growth is impossible to do with just email and phone calls. It’s also the situation I expect to arise over the next couple of years as more and more enterprises implement these social networks and online communities. Being the company without a social network will be like being without a website in the 90s.

  3. Robert Shofi

    As I read the literature regarding this collaborative tool I’m wondering if its just a bit ahead of the curve relative to those that make up the workforce. What I mean, is the generation x and y groups have not been in the workforce long enough to possibly influence this type of product, much less the upcoming generation (mellinium group)that would embrace such a tool for a number of reasons.

    I do envision such a tool to become more popular as more of the key roles, within an organization, transfer to one of the other generational groups mentioned above. Also, when recruiting of the melinium group becomes more robust.

  4. Interesting thread, especially relating to ROI. However, I’m not so sure the ROI question relating to “productivity going social” is that difficult to calculate. An experiment of sorts could be devised where “social productivity” tools or methods were used by one group and not by another and measure and compare the results.

    I think the bigger challenge will be to get agreement on the “return” part of the equation. It is likely that advocates of “social productivity” will argue for different results that those that are either not supportive of it, or don’t yet understand it

  5. Yuvamani

    ROI is always difficult to demonstrate with products whose USP is UI, or productivity improvements. Such things are hard to quantify.

    Often these are passed off by the people who matter as ‘Gimmicky’,’Eye Candy’ etc etc. Think about the difficulty Apple has had in cracking the enterprise space and compare it with the success it has in the consumer space. Even if an enterprise was all Mac, I am not too sure a CTO would sanction an enterprise upgrade to Leopard citing the lack of any real features which matter i.e. ROI. Consumers on the other hand have lapped up Leopard !

    I guess the enterprise 2.0 folks might have to use employee “happiness” like programmer “happiness” which has been the marketing mantra of Ruby On Rails … However RoR has not had great success in the enterprise either!

  6. ROI is actually relatively easy to demonstrate. There are so many tangible benefits that our clients are experiencing through their internal and external social networks, that the value proposition is quickly converting from nice to have or think I need to have – to absolutely must have to remain competitive. The best solutions enable relationship mapping and knowledge sharing, as can be seen at and others like that.

  7. The future of the internet is social networking and social productivity. Jive has seen this future clearly and that is why its Jive software will make a huge impact.

    Anne, your observation “…enabling social productivity — making things happen across ad hoc social networks instead of just relying on individual progress or within-the-workgroup collaboration” is right on the target.

  8. Enterprises face email entrenchment and silo overload. Even when they see the need and benefit, the cultural change is a real issue. The benefits are most tangible when it comes to cross company collaboration, engaging business partners and customers in ways that email and inwardly focused tools like SharePoint can’t. Internal communications is useful, but companies that spend too much time on inward focused communications are missing revenue opportunities.

  9. Hi Anne. I’m pleased to see you’ve raised this as an issue. For those of us who’ve been tracking “enterprise 2.0” in large enterprises (where SMB is another story altogether) have been puzzled about the slow pace of user adoption.

    What we are finding within our F500 customer base is a widespread ambivalence regarding these web 2.0 tools. Until vendors, evangelists, analysts, and perhaps most important- other customers- can begin to articulate a solid business case for social productivity tools, the excitement will be contained to those of us who Twitter our lives away wishing everyone else would,”get it.” And you’re right, the early work on measurement and metrics/return is surfacing in the social media/communications arena which is a subset of the larger enterprise 2.0 meme.

    Incidentally, I agree. Jive’s Clearspace is an excellent alternative for enterprises. We used it to manage, communicate, and collaborate on the Office 2.0 Conference in September.

  10. Our ‘social productivity’ has an ROI – we don’t have an office (there’s 7 of us) and we don’t commute not only saving time and money but our carbon footprint as well.