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No signs that Microsoft is killing Yammer October 30, 2012

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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Yesterday, Yammer did its first big customer event since being acquired by Microsoft. It pitched the concept of an “enterprise graph,” showed a lot of integration features for third-party software, and even made some room for Microsoft. GigaOM Pro analyst Stowe Boyd isn’t the only observer who likened some of Yammer’s work media API angles to those of Facebook, though Stowe thinks the approach is more like Socialcast’s.

Yammer aims to distribute its functions outside its “site.” I’d hate to call it a Google+ style strategy for social tech APIs, but while Facebook aims to extend its reach, it still soaks up huge amounts of (consumer) user time on its own properties. I don’t think Microsoft would be nearly as happy if Yammer technology shows up next to Salesforce.com apps at the expense of its own Dynamics CRM or SharePoint.

Meanwhile, Yammer is embracing beefed-up security and identity management standards, including various flavors of single sign-on.  All good. Integration is a key differentiator for enterprise collaboration. So even if Microsoft has to grit its teeth a little at the thought of competitors to its own services, it’s still doing the right things with Yammer. It’s not killing freemium pricing, and it might even be learning a little about cloud development.

HootSuite should plug in, not replace September 26, 2012

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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Not every application should be a communications hub. HootSuite has done a great job positioning itself as the social media marketing dashboard for medium-sized operations or smaller teams at big companies or agencies. And it makes total sense for it to integrate its dashboard with other communications tools. But “getting you out of your mail inbox” into Hootsuite seem overly ambitious. There’s tons of other listening platforms and work media tools it needs to support.

I expect big social communications platforms like Yammer, SocialCast, and Chatter can bolt on to and even become the main thread for other marketing technology effectively. I’m not so sure this is where HootSuite will shine.

Salesforce.com’s next billion-dollar business: marketing tech August 27, 2012

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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On its earnings call, Salesforce.com showed 34 percent revenue growth and called marketing its next billion-dollar business. The most vocal proponent of the so-called “social enterprise,” Salesforce has made big bets on social media marketing technology with huge acquisitions (Radian6, Buddy Media). The company is well positioned, but it has a lot of work to do.

Salesforce’s Q2 revenue growth was solid, but at just over $730 million it is much smaller than that of its biggest enterprise software rivals. Oracle’s software business grew only 6 percent, but it’s already $8 billion, and Microsoft’s server, tools and business software sales topped $11 billion. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said on the call that its customer service product line has moved beyond a $500 million yearly run-rate on its way to $1 billion, and he expects that marketing technology would achieve that “not overnight, but not that long, either.”

Grand vision

Salesforce plans to integrate social marketing management with customer service and wrap the whole with social collaboration via its Chatter work media products. Benioff cited Burberry as a customer that had added Radian6 and was deploying Chatter.

The twin pillars of Salesforce’s marketing business are Radian6, a listening platform it acquired a year and a half ago for $326 million, and Buddy Media, its just-closed $689 million acquisition that makes management tools for social media advertising and marketing. But when giving full-year revenue guidance, CFO Graham Smith indicated Salesforce was expecting only $25 million in revenue from Buddy Media. A questioner on the call asked that, while Buddy Media managed 10 percent of the advertising that ran on Facebook, did Salesforce need any more assets in its marketing tech portfolio. Benioff responded that he’d already acquired the biggest players in social media marketing management – not so subtly taking digs at Oracle’s acquisitions in the space.

Slow execution?

Two weeks ago, Salesforce introduced “Communities,” which will enable companies to create private, Chatter-based social networks to collaborate with remote employees, customers, and their supply chain. But smaller competitors like Jive Software and Telligent are well ahead of Salesforce, especially since Salesforce’s product will only go into limited beta this year, with general availability scheduled for the second half of 2013. Salesforce trumpets its ability to combine a social networking platform with business process apps, but the specialists are already packaging up suites of functions for various types of marketing, collaboration, and integration with enterprise applications.

And Salesforce may be, if anything, too focused on social media. Another questioner asked if Saleforce was going to add lead-generation management to its portfolio. Benioff said that he thought lead generation and email marketing were not areas of spending growth. That may be true, but marketers I talk to, especially in retail, still value email marketing as a better conversion tool than social media. Benioff said Salesforce’s marketing dashboard could accommodate direct marketing, but that he might lean on Salesforce’s AppExchange marketplace for third-party tools.

Indeed, most companies have their own preferred email marketing platforms, and Salesforce probably doesn’t need to acquire what might end up as a competitive alternative. Salesforce is collecting the pieces for a full-fledged assault on marketing, but its next $1 billion may take a little longer than Benioff predicts.


Question of the week

What else should Salesforce add to its marketing tech portfolio?

Potential Microsoft-Yammer impact June 25, 2012

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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There’s still no official declaration by Microsoft – or Yammer – that it would acquire the social work media company for over $1 billion. While some observers labeled the social enterprise acquisition frenzy “lunacy,” others called this potential match-up the “smartest deal of the year.” As with all acquisitions and mergers, it’s all in the details of execution, but this potential combination makes a lot of sense.

What it means

Microsoft’s own SharePoint enterprise collaboration platform is notoriously difficult to deploy. Yammer is just the opposite. And Yammer, like several other freemium, cloud-based collaboration tools, has built integration hooks into its activity stream to pull from and feed back into Microsoft applications, as well as those of Salesforce.com, SAP and other enterprise software offerings. Yammer offers social network-like work media functions including user profiles, project and user “following,” a feed-based user interface, and basic content and file sharing. Yammer, having raised $142 million, claims to have 5 million users at over 200,000 companies, although likely 20 percent or fewer are paid seats.

If the deal goes through, there will be lots of talk of integration. But this is one case where a “bolted on” solution might pay off better for Microsoft than slowing down Yammer’s so-far successful strategy of plugging in to multiple other applications and platforms, including Microsoft’s. And when Microsoft talks integration, it doesn’t necessarily move swiftly. Microsoft spoke warmly about opportunities to connect its Lync unified communications scheme with Skype, with little to show for it so far. A longer-term integration differentiator could lie in searching and connecting the new data silos being created by the proliferation of work media applications.

And which Microsoft product set would benefit most from Yammer integration? SharePoint is the most logical starting point, but Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM suite beckons as does Office and its cloud-based Office 365 variant. Microsoft has been most successful when it builds out horizontal platforms like Windows, Office and SQL Server that third-party developers can leverage for functional (CRM, accounting, HR, manufacturing, etc.) or industry-specific applications. By that reasoning, Yammer fits SharePoint better than Dynamics.

A horizontal approach would keep the door wide open for developers, systems integrators and distributors to take the Yammer/Microsoft combination far and wide. Though some observers think Microsoft will kill Yammer’s freemium business model, it would be wiser to maintain a free entrée point. Microsoft needs to figure out how to exploit this model; freemium is here to stay.

Whom it affects

There is a wide variety – not to say confusing proliferation – of social enterprise players in the market. They tend to fall into types:

Enterprise social networks. Yammer sees companies like Jive Software and Telligent as its main competitors. Those two are ahead of Yammer in adding features and applications to customized their offerings for community marketing, internal and external collaboration and some of those business functions mentioned above. Another player, Atlassian has focused smartly as a platform for software developer collaboration. While Microsoft would add resources to Yammer, those companies are better positioned to compete than is NewsGator, whose current business model depends on adding services to SharePoint.

File-sharing content management and collaboration. Companies like Alfresco and Box have built out far more content management features compared with Dropbox and others that have yet to move far beyond file-sharing. Still, simple collaboration tools have managed to gain ground with line-of-business managers that can’t wait for IT support. If Microsoft doesn’t wreck Yammer, it may be able to wall off enterprise incursions by these companies, and relegate them to small-business and midmarket buyers.

Socialized ERP. Salesforce.com’s Chatter looks a lot like Yammer, and Salesforce can position itself as a credible cloud solution compared with Microsoft. Microsoft must keep Yammer as a horizontal platform play, and resist too much of its own – rather than third-party – application integration. Ironically, Microsoft could play the “open systems” ecosystem card against Salesforce and Oracle’s Webcenter. Oracle pitches Webcenter across all its software, but it’s really its applications-focused cloud computing tactic versus Salesforce.

Socialized enterprise software infrastructure. IBM Connections add social integration to its infrastructure and communications software, much as Tibco employs tibbr. They’re “bolting on” social media to their own offerings, where VMWare is trying to build out a platform with Socialcast. Socialcast, as the more general-purpose offering, is more vulnerable to the Microsoft/Yammer potential.

Key takeaway

Microsoft should focus on keeping Yammer a horizontal platform and learn how to adapt to freemium pricing rather than obsess over deeply integrating Yammer across its product lines. If it does, this could be a powerful combination in work media.

Question of the week

Who’s most at risk from a Microsoft/Yammer combination?