Moxie Consolidates Software Solutions

Earlier today I released an analysis note for my customers based on the recent announcement from Moxie Software that it has consolidated their internal collaboration and customer service solutions into one.  The following were the key points:

Moxie was one of the remaining independent eService vendors (together with eGain, FuzeDigital, FuzeDigital, KANA, Parature, RightNow, and Sword Ciboodle) that needed a distinguishing feature to find their niche market; all vendors in the market are reaching the point of specialization where they establish their niche and live happily ever after in it – it is part of the maturation in the market.

There are three proof points to show this is the right move for them (but I have one concern).

The birth of the collaborative enterprise: ever since we began to talk about the concept of converging social CRM and enterprise 2.0 into what we early on we called social business we maintained that the idea was to reach a level of “hybrid” collaboration between organizations and customers aimed at reaching higher levels of value for both.

Customer Service is the right place to start: I have long maintained that for vendors that have complex customer interactions (what we tend to call business-to-consumer interactions) customer service is the place to be.  This is where most of the transactions take place.  In my many years of doing research in CRM I have found out that between 50% and 90% of interactions for these vendors happen through (or at least get started) Customer Service departments.

Communities are more than just social channels:  The value of a Facebook like or Twitter follower can be discussed (and “calculated”) forever, but it pales in comparison to the value that feedback, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration bring to an organization.  To leverage this power properly an organization must have the ideal infrastructure to support communities to engender data, knowledge, and feedback.

Full disclosure, I have worked with Moxie for the past years advising them on the product direction and strategy as well as market positioning – this is to say that I agree with the proof points since it is what we worked on for that time. However, I do retain one concern about this move: market perception.

Moxie has been perceived as a dual-solution provider: Partly due to the market confusion as to what they delivered but also because it was easy for their competitors to cast them as something they were not (i.e. if they were in a collaboration deal their competitors could cast them as a customer service vendor and vice versa).

I see this as a good move for them, I am watching the progress as the market evolves.

What do you think? Is this another evolution point for Social Business? Is this a good move? Would love to hear your thoughts…

Disclaimers: Moxie is an active client (they were also as nGenera); I am working with them on this launch.  eGain, KANA, and Sword Ciboodle are active clients.  FuzeDigital is an  inactive client. Parature and RightNow (as well as Oracle, who recently acquired RightNow) were never clients. 

Getting to Business Value Through Gamification

Everyone wants in.

Organizations want to do something with it and they think it can change the world; if you go by their word every organization in the planet is doing something with it.

I am talking, of course, about Social’s latest craze tool: Gamification.

Although it has been around for quite some time, behavior modification– the theories behind it – have been around for some 50-60 years in current format, we are still in the early infancy of using it for business.  And, as it always happens in the early infancy – the value propositions behind the implementation are being missed.

Not purposefully, mind you – but yet still being missed.

The gaming dynamics or mechanics of gamification (the game part, playing to retain interest of participants) is not what brings value.  We can definitely see an increase in repeat visits, maybe even tie that to an increase in sales or reduction in costs if we do a decent job correlating KPIs and gaming metrics; but that is not the end game.

Bringing people back to your site is not what Gamification is all about; nor is it about playing.  It has to deliver long-term business value to remain past the initial stage.  Business value that we have to define well enough to measure it – or even recognize it and track it.  That is what we need to figure out in the next few months.

Thanks to my friends at Badgeville (one of the Gamification vendors) I am going to spend the rest of the year investigating and researching that business value that provides long-term justification to the idea of “playing games”.

This is the first of a series of posts and webinars I am going to be doing with them this year.  I want to use the series to introduce ideas, research, and what you need to know to leverage Gamification in business.

It is not about Using (or Playing)

The most common misconception about using Gamification is that it is about enticing and incenting the usage of features or functions.  While at face value this may be true, there is limited value in bringing customers back merely to use the specific features (yes, even if said features are revenue-generators).

The purpose of Gamification is far different, both for the user as well as the organization.

While we may have, initially, placed more emphasis on the gaming mechanics and how to make it more fun for the user and enticing them to return to – well, play some more (we call it engagement, to make sure we think we are doing more than just bringing them back for our purposes), the value for both of them lies in the other part of Gamification: behavioral sciences.

For the organization it is definitely not only about bringing the user back through play to participate more – it is far more valuable to be able to study the actions and outcomes while users are in the site. Indeed, the value of identifying a user, their knowledge, their likes and dislikes, then follow them in their online work, and use that information to create better profiles, better knowledge, and better experiences is nearly invaluable.  Until now, we had to rely on focus groups or tracking tools (none of them very effective or timely to provide information) to learn part of that information – and even then, we never knew how reliable it was.  Timing of the events was conditional to when users agreed to do it, within limited time events we setup, and their actions were biased and influenced by them knowing they were being observed; it was not natural behavior.

It is far more reliable to observe a person at play (or work, or acting out) than to ask them how they do it.

The ability to understand not only the actions in the site, but the reception from other users, the value they bring to the community, and to aggregate all this information into a reputation score is far more valuable that simply bringing them back.  Observing and learning from users as they “play” is what brings the value of learning and understanding about the user to life for the organization.

On the other hand, the user can be certain that not only is the organization willing to bring them back – they are also interested in learning more about them, how they work, what they want and say, and who they are – and turn this information into more personalized, better experiences for them.  They also get instant feedback, via many of the gamification mechanics like badges, rewards, and scoreboards, and learn quickly how valuable each action is to their communities – and eventually even the organization.

This, however, is not simple to do – not easy to track.  The requirements for a gamification engine to work properly, and deliver value to both participants, are multiple and most of them very complex.  This is why a gamification engine is not only needed, also necessary.

Throughout the next few months I will take the time to explore in more detail all these concepts of exchanging value, increasing and using reputation, and delivering the ultimate goal of Gamification: changing habits.

If you join me, both here and in the webinars, we can explore it together. You can start by registering for the first webinar on March 27th.

What do you say?

Disclaimer: in case you did not figure it out by reading above, Badgeville is a client and we are working together to broaden the definition of gamification throughout this year.

The Unbearable Lightness of Multitenancy in the Cloud

If y’all are not in the mood to listen to a (well reasoned, researched, educated and well-timed) rant, move along.  This is me ranting about vendors trying to confuse users when it comes to cloud topics.

If you are interested in why multitenancy should not be an item of discussion, then read on.

Consider y’all warned.

Last week (and into the weekend) the Enterprise Irregulars community got lit up.

These are rare occurrences these days, as we have probably dealt with most issues in many different ways and we are used to — well, just about anything.  However, this one was an interesting discussion.  SAP announced last week that it would move their SAP Business One offer to the cloud.  Part of the announcement was that there would be multiple instances of the solution available (SAP Business One is a partner-provided solution; each partner runs a different instance which they customize, add to, and manage).  As Dennis Howlett astutely points out, nowhere in the announcement talked about multitenancy, so the speculation among the EI started on whether  each instance will be multitenant and how.  Someone (and I cannot find the right reference to where it began) called it “megatenency” – as in multiple instances of multitenancy managed with systems management as a single one.  Just thinking about that makes my brain hurt in a bad way.

This brought the discussion, as it always does these days when a vendor announces their own spin of cloud and multitenancy, of whether it was real cloud and how they can call it cloud if it does not support multitenancy.  This is usually the spot where I bite my lip, work through the pain and try to ignore the discussions.  Unfortunately, I cannot bite much longer – pretty sore and bloody…

There is a commonly held belief among people in this world that nothing can be cloud without being multitenant.

A horribly wrong belief.

Multitenancy is a leftover from hosted applications times.  Back then (when applications were massive and complex, not distributed, and basically just offered a web-interface to a client-server or similar solution running in the data center) there were few ways to make sure a vendor offered the same  version of the solution to each person who worked in the hosted model: offer multiple interfaces to a single instance of an application and take appropriate precautions so each person using the application would see a personalized (to a certain extent, not everything can be personalized in a hosted application) version of the same application.  This made administration of the application easier (can you imagine having to apply a patch or a new parameter to 1,000s of replicas of the same application?) for the vendor (also far cheaper as they did not have to pay for multiple instances) and guaranteed the user would always be running the latest and greatest version of the application without even thinking about it.  Along the way, and as we progressed to trued cloud solutions, multitenancy became the crying battle for what cloud applications should be and how all vendors should be judged as being “true cloud” or not.

You are probablly sitting there and nodding your head, saying “yes, that is what I know to be certain”.  Except that it is not.

True cloud computing does not care about multitenancy.  To paraphrase a popular line from the movie “The Matrix” — once you are in cloud computing, you won’t care if it is multitenant or single-tenancy; there is no “spoon”.

To see cloud computing in better perspective, don’t think of large applications – think of your smart phone (I almost said Android instead of iPhone when referring to smart phones, but did not want to start that war between toy and phone – know what I mean? different rant, different day).

In the cloud, all applications SHOULD be like your smart phone apps: small, single-function, easy to build and deploy, and easy to manage (via App stores or marketplaces).  If you think of the cloud that way, you quickly begin to realize that multitenancy does not matter in the cloud: regardless of where the app is, it is not hard to keep always the latest-and-greatest one deployed (my Android updates all my apps automatically, sans a few — but that is a human-introduced issue with DRM and pseudo-privacy, not a cloud problem).  I don’t worry about my data being shared or not (one of the many, also wrong, complaints of those that don’t care for multi-tenancy) since I store it where I want to, use it as I want to, and control it as I want to.  The brunt of the application, the work to be done, happens in platforms across the world – platforms that perform commands in coordination with an Infrastructure layer and a Software (which should actually be called presentation) layer.  By definition, you can replicate  infrastructure, platforms and software ad-nausea in the cloud and never have to worry about tenency (systems management, another issue – far more complex and one to which Microsoft made no favors by introducing their SMS product in the late 1990s – what a flop and improper use of the term; slightly better today, but damage was done).

Hope you can see the difference between hosted applications and a true distributed architecture like cloud computing (especially when it comes to multitenancy).  I hope you can see why multitenancy is something that, once you are in the cloud, it does not matter — unless you deploy hosted applications, called them cloud, and want your customers to discuss something that is remote from what they should be discussing and educating themselves about: true cloud computing architecture and how to deploy that in their organization.

Multitenancy discussions when talking about true cloud computing just distract from the issue and I wish the vendors would get smarter and stop using that legerdemain to hide that their solutions are not really, truly, cloud-compliant.

Of course, that is just me — the cloud purist.

What do you think?

(BTW, as I was getting ready to push this out Dennis wrote another interesting post, check it out – he says that the discussion on multitenancy matters)

Disclaimer: SAP is a client, but it does not matter for this post as I only mention them in passing and make no statement either in favor or against their actions.  Just sayin’

Jive Offers Social Customer Service; Battles Lithium for Market

Earlier today  Jive announced they launched a new product: Social Customer Service, extending their community platform for external communities.  The offer includes an OEM integration with Bunchball, and will be available to the public at the end of March.

I distributed this morning a note to my clients and certain interested parties, here is a summary of the main points in it (please contact me if you are interested in becoming part of the distribution list).

In my latest note analyzing Lithium (when they obtained additional funding) I strongly suggested that by taking their focus off their core and most populated market segment they were opening themselves up for a vendor to come in with a similar or better solution and take market share.  A few months later it has happened: Jive has introduced a product that, for all intent and purpose, is similar to Lithium (features and functions).

The collaborative customer service (also known as social customer service) market is barely getting started.  There are other competitors (FuzeDigital, GetSatisfaction, Moxie, RightNow, Sword, and Telligent to name the most popular ones with communities in their solutions) and there are also partnerships being negotiated or already in place (Lithium and Genesys, GetSatisfaction and Salesforce) that fulfill the spectrum of needs right now.

There are plenty of other solutions that deliver value to customers, but the difference in this case comes from four reasons:

Speed to Market. Jive was able to leverage a fast development model to create this solution in little over six months.

Integration and Partnerships. This is going to be critical going forward.  Leveraging the Application Marketplace, Jive can do a quick job of integrating with any vendor in their marketplace.

Platform Delivery Model.  While both companies boast cloud-delivery, prospects and customers tell us that Jive’s platform-based model is closer to what they expect from cloud vendors.

Social Business. Although this is still an arms race to see who can serve the other side of the fence better, there is an advantage in release schedules and experience that goes to Jive.  The battle is not yet decided, and there are no clear winners yet.

Both have very interesting points in their columns: Lithium has presence as market leader, experience, and large accounts to back their claims whereas Jive has a more modern approach, better momentum, and a flexible platform (this is going to be the key going forward).  The market, as we said before, is too early to determine who the winners are but the timing is totally right.

During the first six-to-nine-months of 2012 most Customer Service organizations are focused in understanding communities, seeing where they place in their strategies, and how they can use them better for collaborative and social customer service.  Although most of these organizations are not yet engaged in acquiring the technology, the latter part of this year and into next year will be crucial for vendors to be in this market (if they want to become key players).

If you are a Lithium customer and are very satisfied with your solution, there is nothing you have to do.

If you are a Jive customer and are considering, or have already deployed, external communities you should have a conversation with your sales representative to understand better what the offer entails, when it can be available to cater to your needs, and what are favorable conditions you can obtain to bring them into your organization – I am certain that through the first few months you can obtain some very interesting terms.

If you are a customer service organization and are in the market looking for a solution for collaborative or social customer service, definitely invite the people from Jive in for a cup-of-coffee and a chat.  Although their solution may seem new and not established, they already have proof of how the product works from their prior work done in the market and the flexibility of the platform will make up for some of their initial shortcomings.

Disclaimers: Jive is an active client; I am working with them on this launch.  Lithium, GetSatisfaction, and FuzeDigital are inactive clients.  Telligent was never a client.