Social Collaboration Tool Kona to Get a Jolt for Business Use

Don Tennant

Last week, I wrote about Deltek CIO Deb Fitzgerald and the role she and her IT department played in the development of Kona, a project-oriented social collaboration tool. Now let me fill you in on the rest of the story — the features of the tool and the upcoming release of the business version.

To set that stage in the interview with Fitzgerald, I noted that Deltek has positioned Kona as a tool that’s equally useful in an individual’s personal and professional lives, and I asked her whether it’s fair to say that the vision for Kona involves an acknowledgement that the line between people’s personal and professional lives is increasingly blurred. She said it is:

Yes. Our culture is similar to a lot of other cultures, where we’re embracing that. We have a very flexible work force. We have a large number of people who are either full-time working from home or embracing our flexible work arrangements. This really gives them the ability to balance that.

The business edition, which will be released on June 19, will be available for $100 per user per year, with price breaks for additional users and longer-term commitments. It’s currently in early adoption — Fitzgerald said Deltek is accepting people to join the early adopter program on its website. She elaborated on that program and some of the new features:

It provides some additional features, and we’ll continue to enrich those features in terms of the business edition being something for both small and large corporations. Our early adopters have been everything from companies with 30 employees to those with 1,000 or more looking at using it in different ways. From an IT perspective, it allows you to have some additional control over your spaces. Instead of entrusting your space owners to be saying who’s in and out of the corporate spaces, it allows IT to centralize a little bit more of that on-boarding and off-boarding process. So not just one person can let people in and out and facilitate conversations; it allows you to have that shared ownership, which is more common in a corporate environment, as opposed to non-corporate.

I asked Fitzgerald to identify a feature that Kona does not have today, but that it’s going to have a year from now. Her response:

One that is coming out shortly that a lot of people will be excited about is we’re trying to think through what we would do from an Active Directory perspective — enhancing that capability is one from an IT perspective. From a non-IT perspective, one of the things that’s coming out very quickly is the ability for someone to give a very quick overview of the space, and almost have a little tutorial on how you use the space in a very user-focused way.

I noted that the social collaboration space is obviously kind of crowded, and that Deltek isn’t exactly a household name, other than maybe among government contractors. So I asked her how Deltek will reach an inflection point where Kona starts being widely adopted. She said the plan is multifaceted:

One of the things is we’re finding that as people are trying it, they’re realizing there’s a difference — that project and collaboration coming together. It’s just not the same as the other ones that are out there. So we’re trying as much as possible to get people to try this, so they can see it, and it spreads through their personal and professional networks. We also have a lot of customers of our own that are very passionate about our product set, so we’re going through some integration with our product set, as well. There will be APIs available very shortly that will allow you to integrate this into whatever application you want to, but we’re obviously integrating it into our product set to seamlessly allow for that social interaction to happen in multiple different places—knowing that the power of social needs to be there. We’re trying to use the power of word-of-mouth, through our core customer group as well as others in terms of seeing the difference of Kona and understanding how much value it can add.

Prior to joining Deltek in 2009, Fitzgerald served as vice president of information technologies at VeriSign. So just out of curiosity, I asked her what the biggest difference is between the corporate cultures at VeriSign and Deltek. She said she wasn’t looking for a job and she moved to Deltek:

The culture that attracted me stayed true after I joined — you never know until after you jump on board. I’m a change agent at heart. I love to be in a company where there are challenges, and it’s an aggressive company that’s growing. But when you’re in a growth company, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re embracing change, and looking to do things better as an organization. That’s Deltek, and that’s one of the reasons that we are embracing the social business trend, not because it’s a buzzword and we’re just jumping on it. It’s something that we really feel is adding value, and there have been tons of examples of that since I’ve come on board, in terms of the way that we’ve approached acquisitions, or IT, or how we’re releasing products. There’s an appetite of adapting as an organization, and really partnering together, to make this a better place as we continue on the aggressive growth curve we’re on an as organization.

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