This week at our Catalyst Conference in San Diego, I hosted our first ever “Social Software Smackdown,” a panel discussion among Chris Yeh (Box), Steve Gillmor (salesforce.com) and Adam Pisoni (Yammer).
I am happy to report that the video of this session is now available from Gartner Events on Demand (note: free with registration or login with a Gartner ID).
Below are my notes from this fantastic session. A request to those who comment here: please watch the video before commenting. My notes are definitely not complete.
Issue #1: The future of the social software market
- The move to the cloud is a bump in the road compared to what is ahead.
- We are at the early stages of this market with tremendous upside for enterprises and workers.
- User expectations are pushing us to add features faster and to adapt.
- Social software needs to be integrated into how we work.
- The acquisition of Yammer by Microsoft reflects this needed change of focus (to take social software from being a destination unto itself, to becoming integrated with the rest of IT).
Issue #2: Predictability versus moving at “cloud speed”
- It is difficult to NOT get dragged into a slower “waterfall-like” development model when selling to the enterprise.
- There is a natural tension between what is moving fast and what should be rolled out slowly.
- For Box, end-user features are iterated quickly and administrative (or security-related) features are iterated slowly.
- Browser compatibility is a good illustration. Many companies in the room were still running IE8.
- There seems to be a real difference with how the vendors approach deprecating features and the need to support older features. Yammer has a “hit list” (and expect this to accelerate in the future).
Issue #3: Interoperability
- I asked panelists the question Eric DeFerm posted in a comment to a Gartner blog post. Eric is concerned about integration or interoperability between products (Eric’s full question is here). I loved Eric’s suggestion of having a protocol that is the equivalent of SMTP. Perhaps the Simple Collaboration Transport Protocol.
- Many of the integrations we have today between products are surface-level.
- SMTP has been tremendously successful and has been around 40 years.
- However, it also means we cannot change email.
- Chatter and Yammer (and other ESN products) exist because we could change them.
- If we were done with enterprise social software, then interoperability would be easy.
- Even companies in this space are struggling to deal with the multitude of tools they use internally (good example shared by Box).
- If you have two social software products succeeding, then maybe that is OK for now. Adoption is the most difficult part.
Issue #4: The “freemium” model and the impact it has on their relationship with enterprise IT organizations
- Freemium forces enterprise vendors to provide software that people love to use.
- However, for Box, the value of freemium seems to be waning and the sales cycle is starting to look more like those seen by traditional enterprise IT vendors.
- Yammer was wrong about freemium in one aspect. Viral adoption is not enough. The needed cultural changes require executive support.
Issue #5: Is mobile-first a competitive advantage?
- (A shout-out to Naomi Moneypenny for tweeting this suggestion)
- I pointed out to the panel that all of their products were launched before Apple’s App Store. Therefore, perhaps they all now qualify as legacy products. In response, Steve Gillmor said (following my logic) that I would also view cloud as legacy.
- Is mobile-first just another way of saying that small companies can move faster than large companies?
- New use cases are emerging, including workers who previously did not have any connectivity to enterprise IT.
- Having robust APIs enables partners to build out these new use cases and react quicker.