Ann All spoke with Sam Lawrence, chief marketing officer for Jive Software, which delivers "social productivity" software that brings together employees, partners and customers into a unified collaboration system so they can create better products, faster processes and improved relationships.
All: A lot of people are talking about social software. How do you define it?
Lawrence: We never use the term "social software," we use the term "social productivity." People are looking at this grocery bag of cool ingredients like blogs and wikis, and they know they are potentially powerful. But there is a lot of confusion over how to make them into a broader vision. So people end up looking at what they do know, which is something like a SharePoint or a content management system, or an intranet. But they don't want to wait three to six years, for the next two releases of a SharePoint or something similar. Those things take a very file-centric view of the world, which is the opposite of a social productivity solution. A social productivity solution is about capturing all of the interactions between people and aiming them at doing work.
Software is finally getting released that's people-centric instead of file-centric. So, once those tools are at companies, how do they deal with them culturally? You've got people who are used to cranking out work and answers outside of their personal inbox and outside of Microsoft Office. That's just not the way they work. So we said, "Let's stop talking about blogs and wikis and RSS and all of those different tools, and pull those things together into a single platform that is aimed around organizing by work groups and activities." That's why people buy Clearspace. But that's not enough. What needs to happen, once you have everybody connected and can see what they are working on, you can get metrics around those efforts that you never had before. So you have a level of productivity metrics you never had before. That's why we talk about social productivity rather than social software.
All: So you advocate a platform approach vs. a best-of-breed approach?
Lawrence: One of our customers, Netflix, looked at its intranet and determined it was a big junk drawer. That's true at a lot of companies. When companies built (intranets) 10 years ago, they went grocery shopping for tools, and then they cobbled them together to create a Franken-suite kind of thing. So you go over here for the employee directory, you go over here to collaborate, and you go over here to look at planning materials. And it's a read-only, broadcast mechanism. Many companies have just been in a maintenance mode since the early '90s. So a lot of companies are going, "If the promise of the intranet was to unite employees, then this thing that I am looking at is just a junk drawer."
I think the same kind of thing could happen again. People are going, "Oh, I need some kind of social networking, and I need a blog and a wiki." They get these different tools and cobble them together, and then you end up with the same kind of Franken-suite again. Here's what's going on: A lot of C-level people are going out to the consumer Internet, and figuring out it's easier to track work and figure out the status of things. You can figure out where a package is. But you can't figure out where your expense report is at work. So (the executives) are saying, "Why don't I have this in my company?" So either they instruct their IT people to go grocery shopping, and end up with a cobbled-together solution like I mentioned earlier, or they make it more of a strategic initiative.