As I was going through the painful migration of my wordpress.com blog to my very own and admittedly geeky sapountz.is URL this past weekend, I could not help but think about enterprise software and the transformation this industry has undergone during the past 40 years.
In my current role, I get to see, play with, and use what is for sure the newest (and hottest) space in enterprise software: Enterprise Social Media/Social CRM. Whether it is social listening/analytics (e.g., radian6, Visible Technologies, Nielsen BuzzMetrics), campaign management (e.g., CoTweet, Sprinklr, objectivemarketer), or community platforms (e.g., Jive, Yammer, Salesforce.com’s Chatter), this market is still very young (at best 4-5 yrs old), and I already don’t like what I am seeing.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
George Santayana, 1905
While I do not want to pick on any specific vendor, I believe the entire market is repeating some of the same mistakes we have collectively made in our industry before:
- The customer is not always right: In a space as new and immature as this, we, the users, in most cases don’t know what we need, but the vendors are invariably eager to please us and add yet one more feature against the competition. Challenge us before saying yes to our next feature request.
- Think roles: While organizational models within the enterprise are evolving, you still have different requirements depending on whether you are in PR, marketing, sales, community management, or support. Think hard about the types of problems your users are trying to solve.
- Design around use cases: While the vendors are fighting the feature/function war, we are struggling to figure out how to use your solutions, even for simple use cases like the one I mentioned in a previous post – how to ‘social-enable’ physical events (I plan to cover this one in more depth in an upcoming post). Work with your customers and understand what the problem they are trying to solve is.
This market is rapidly evolving and many of the ‘established’ vendors have already started to acquire smaller competitors aspiring to be end-to-end social platforms (e.g., Lithium’s acquisition of Scout Labs, Jive’s acquisition of Filtrbox). While I don’t doubt scale is key (and I expect to see established enterprise vendors entering the space this year), I believe that the vendors that pay attention to these three points will ultimately be the winners.
What do you think? I‘d love to hear from enterprise software veterans and social media software vendors in particular. I look forward to your feedback.