Archive for February, 2010
by Bill Ives
Central Desktop provides a comprehensive SaaS-based social technology platform that is focused on the mid-market. I have written about it several times on this blog (see Central Desktop adds MS Outlook Integration to its SaaS Social Technology Platform and Central Desktop Moves Up with Enterprise Edition for most recent posts). Recently I spoke again with Isaac Garcia, the CEO.
We first looked back at 2009 that was a very good year for Central Desktop. They had a 44% year-over-year revenue growth coupled with a 50% increase in staff. There are now hundreds of new Enterprise Edition customers such as Netflix, CBS and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Central Desktop also experienced a more than 600% increase in Enterprise Edition sales in Q4 2009 compared to Q4 2008. You can read more in a recent blog post by Isaac Garcia, Central Desktop CEO 2009 Retrospective.
We discussed the general growth of SaaS-based applications in the down economy due to the relatively low initial costs and the ability to scale up and down the investment level. However, Isaac said that he has not seen the scaling up and down. His customers tend to maintain and increase their commitments. This makes sense because you would not want to take useful tools out of your employees’ hands for a relatively small savings. You need increased productivity in today’s economy and a collaboration platform such as Central Desktop can help make this goal happen.
We went on to cover aspects of Central Desktop 2.0. They completely re-designed the user experience. Isaac said that development has occurred on an ongoing basis and these incremental improvements have led to a more utilitarian interface and some inconsistencies. They felt it was time to do a complete re-design of the front end to simplify it, make it more accessible to non-power users, and ensure consistency. They spent a lot of time with customers going through possibilities and making adjustments.
We took a look at the new interface and I think they have achieved their goal. It is a cleaner look with a consistent approach. They have done click optimization so you can navigate much faster. Part of this is done with an effective use of drop down windows. There is also a nice logic to the layout. The recent activity display was re-done with color-coding and a consistent sequence of presentation. You first see a defining icon, then a title and then the status as you scan lists. Here is an example of the new dashboard.
There is a micro-blogging status box at the top. It can export to Twitter and Facebook or stay within Central Desktop.. If you click on a profile picture you see information about the person and their most recent micro-blog status update. With documents or in discussions you see the comments in a Facebook style display. Images of people are used more than names to speed recognition. Here is an example of their favorites drop down which helps with the click optimization.
Central Desktop 2.0 also features an enhanced online file viewer that supports more than 200 different file types. Even files that require specific viewers such as CAD files are supported, allowing people who not have these applications to view them through Central Desktop. You can quickly see thumbnails of documents before deciding to open them. It is also possible to comment on documents and start a discussion around them. They also added the ability to print through a Fed Ex office to make it easier to handle special printing jobs.
Central Desktop 2.0 has templates for the different capabilities: projects, intranets, blogs, forums, wikis, help desk, and database. You can customize these templates with drag and drop arrangement of the components. I certainly agree with this focus on the interface, as adoption remains the biggest issue in enterprise 2.0. An intuitive interface is essential to get the majority of employees to convert from their current and familiar applications. Here is an example of their wiki page interface.
Their next moves include upgrading mobile device support, and providing an enhanced API, as well as increasing the ability to customize for verticals. Recent research has indicated that collaboration will be one of the major growth uses of mobile devices so this is timely. Central Desktop also plans to set up a marketplace where customers can share templates. These are all good moves.
by Bill Ives
CubeTree is a robust enterprise collaboration platform that I have covered before on this blog (see CubeTree Releases Innovative Enterprise Collaboration Platform). Recently, I spoke again with Carlin Wiegner, their CEO. We began with a conversation about the greatly expanding market for enterprise 2.0 software. Carlin is very pleased to be part of a growth market just as I am pleased to be covering it.
Carlin suggested that one of the main drivers is the increased awareness of the value of alternatives to email for collaboration through the very rapid growth of such consumer Web tools as Twitter and Facebook. We have gone past the tipping point and people can see the value of the more social forms of communication and collaboration. Carlin said that some of the firms they are speaking with have shifted the tone of the conversation from “why do this?” to “why not do this?” One client moved from a department implementation to an enterprise adoption, considering CubeTree as another “dial tone” necessity.
Carlin said there are other reasons but this may be the main one. I certainly agree on its importance. He added the increasing entry into the workforce of young people who are expecting these types of tools is helping drive adoption. I added the economic benefit of SaaS offerings in a down economy with smaller start up costs and easier ability to turn down and up the investment. There is also a focus on making the downsized work forces better able to do more with less by becoming more productive and tools like CubeTree can realize this goal in a cost effective manner. There is also the reduced cost of virtual collaboration.
We moved on to discussing CubeTree. They have been successfully using a “freemium” pricing model – a free version, coupled with paid upgrades to premium versions that have additional storage and features. The free version is not a free trial – although it has a complete set of features, it simply has fewer features than paid versions. Carlin said that many small businesses begin with the free version and switch to the paid version as they get to 30 – 40 users. Then they often move to providing Cubetree to the whole company. The same threshold tends to apply to their larger customers but then the first move is to cover a department with heavy use. Carlin believes that the concept of a free offering is both embedded in the market and a great way to allow for the viral spread of support in an organization. I would agree on both counts.
Next, we covered some of their new capabilities. There are two types. First, CubeTree does a weekly release and they are on release 93. There have been many incremental upgrades recently such as adding faces instead of icons on profiles. CubeTree allows for cross-company instances and this use of faces on profiles has encouraged increased usage in these cross-company instances. They have also added ease of use and better administration for groups. Another small upgrade was the display of recent activities on the bottom of page, making it easy to go back.
There are four major additions to functionality. First, there are social documents. You can view a document without downloading it as every file has a Web viewer. There is also the ability to add visual commentary to these documents. Second, CubeTree has added issue tracking, which provides better support for workflow. The third addition is the improved functionality for administration. It is easier for IT to handle large groups. For example, you can archive all messages to a third party archive. This is useful for such regulated industries as financial services. The fourth addition is CubeTree Deal Rooms. Now you can quickly set a workspace related to an opportunity logged in Saleforce.com. This can be used for the potential customer and the firm or just within the firm to discuss the sales process.
CubeTree’s customers and licensed seats have more than doubled over the past 60 days. They recently secured $8 Million in Series B Financing led by InterWest Partners. Existing investor Trinity Ventures also participated in this round and they have raised $12 million in funding in total. CubeTree certainly seems to be on the right track with these additions and their market progress.
by Bill Ives
YoolinkPro is a French social networking tool and a major player in the enterprise 2.0 industry in Europe. The company was founded by Sunny Paris, co-founder and former CEO of Weborama, an online marketing service. I recently spoke with Sebastien Blanc from YoolinkPro about their offering.
YoolinkPro combines social bookmarking, social networking, and micro-blogging. They began as a social bookmarking tool and then added social networking features. Most recently, they added micro-messaging so users could provide more context with their bookmarks and start conversations on related topics. The micro-blogging capability is similar to Twitter in functionality except that you have 199 characters for your messages. These are all good moves. In addition to these social networking capabilities, you can upload documents for centralized access.
Sebastien said they have a taken a middle road between the standalone micro-messaging tools and the comprehensive collaboration platforms that have added micro-messaging and other social networking capabilities. On one hand, many clients have said to YoolinkPro that they need more functionality that simply micro-messaging. On the other hand, the complex implementation issues that a comprehensive collaboration platform requires can slow adoption. YoolinkPro is focused on adoption and the spread of usage through viral means.
Sebastien provides several use cases. RATP is the company operating the train/metro system for the city of Paris, with 45,000 employees. YoolinkPro is deployed within the engineering department and allows people to save, share and discuss new information about technologies and services in the transportation industry. The service is used alongside other services such as wikis. It is great to hear about this enterprise 2.0 case in France and the ones below.
BNP is the largest corporate and private bank in France. Here the innovation team uses YoolinkPro to share and centralize what is happening in the banking industry. SPF Diana is a company producing pet food, It employs 500 people in more than six countries. YoolinkPro is used to create better connection between several local marketing teams. It allows to centralize marketing documents and to start discussions about business topics. Adsolut is a communication agency with 12 people. YoolinkPro is used here as a stand alone Intranet 2.0 (foster discussions, centralize key documents, distribute company’s news, etc.).
I like their focus on adoption and their goal to keep things simple but not too simple. They are operating in a robust and growth market. This is a good thing, as it validates the enterprise 2.0 approach. It will be interesting to see how they do in North America, with their useful combination of features.
The company also develops Yoolink.to, a universal browser extension that shows the philosophy and features of the corporate service. It can be downloaded free from the Yoolink.to site and there is no need to create an account. You can start using it as soon as you log on to your Facebook or Twitter account. While surfing the internet, you can share and comment on web content in a couple of clicks on major social services such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or del.icio.us. As they said, we have many digital lives and Yoolink.to allows us to not mix them all. Yoolink supports Bit.ly, Gravatar, Netvibes, IGoogle, and WordPress.
by Bill Ives
I recently spoke again with Jascha Kaykas-Wolff at the Webtrends Engage event in New Orleans. We continued the topic I started with Alex Yoder, their CEO (see Webtrends Promotes Openness in its Product and Company Strategy). Jascha gave me some concrete examples of how this openness is being put into practice.
Spirit Airlines is a new Webtrends customer. They use the target capabilities in the Optimize suite to provide individualized offers to customers. The Webtrends Visitor Data Mart allows this to occur as it can take data from several sources to provide a complete picture of customer activities. Webtrends can give a company both aggregated customer data and data on specific individuals across all channels.
In the case of Spirit Air, the company can look at a customer’s prior activity and provide special fares and seating to reward their most active customers. This data scanning through the Visitor Data Mart and the special offers through Optimize happens on the fly because of the open architecture implemented by Webtrends. The ability to combine these tools on the fly also provides a useful feedback loop to conduct tests of offers and other Web site components.
Cabelas is another client. It is a large retail sporting goods outfitter that uses Webtrends Analytics 9. They can collect customer data online and bring it into their enterprise data mining tools. Traditionally, Web data was not integrated with offline data but the open architecture within Webtrends allows for this combination. This allows for the combination of online and in-store transactions so they can better reward customers in their frequent purchasing program.
It goes beyond this to allow Cabelas to better infer customer intensions and respond appropriately. For example, a customer might start to buy some camping gear online but back out. Then they might get some of the purchases at the store the next day. Now Cabelas can make a special offer to them to complete the purchase of related items for their upcoming camping trip.
With their data collection APIs Webtrends has found a way to connect some portions of Facebook data. A brand can set up a Facebook fan page and provide an application connected to this fan page. Using Webtrends they can access all of the data connected with the Facebook application.
To promote this Facebook related capability, Webtrends has launched a Great Data Giveaway Contest for customer intelligence analysts. To enter, a person has to register on the Webtrends fan page, give Webtrends some information about themselves and state what they would do with the data. They also have to share this activity with their friends. There has been a great response so far. Webtrends will now be able to look at the data from the contest entries and decide which ones to involve in sales activities.
Jascha said the use of traditional standalone micro-sites that brands set up for their customers and prospects have been hurt by Facebook. While you lose a lot of control over data collection with Facebook it brings a ready-made audience. Now Webtrends is working to provide further access to Facebook related data to support this trend. This move is part of the larger Webtrends effort to extend the reach of customer data collection beyond traditional online sources to both reach back into more old school offline sources and the many new school social media sources that keep emerging.
by Bill Ives
I am attending the Webtrends Engage 2010 event in New Orleans. I am covering some of the sessions on my Portals and KM blog. Yesterday, I had a chance to speak with the Webtrends CEO, Alex Yoder, on an individual basis. We went over some of the major directions for the company. Alex started by saying their core principle was openness. They are culturally open as a company. They provide direct access to everyone, including himself.
As part of this directive of openness they recently provided access to their knowledge base to the general public. This included how-to-dos for their products, bugs, fixes and other company information that had been behind a firewall and only previously accessible to customers. Now it is available to anyone on the Webtrends site.
They are also sharing the lessons that they have learned inside their company. Alex said that they deal with many of the same issues that their clients face so they can learn from each other. This sharing also helps to build a stronger sense of community with their clients.
On the technology side they partner with a number of providers to round out their capabilities. These include Radian 6 on the front end and Teradata on the back end. Alex said that things are moving too fast for one firm to say that they can do everything. It is often better to partner than to build.
They are also open from a technology perspective. They provide open APIs for both data extraction and data collection, one of the few firms to do both. On the data extraction side they allow for integration of their data into other tools within the enterprise. This helps Web analytics to get out of silos and into executive dashboards for greater visibility. Their data on customer activity can also go into CRM systems to allow for more complete customer records. Their findings can also trigger action-based emails to employees to promote proper responses.
Looking in the future Alex said that Webtrends will continue to further optimize customer interactions. There is a lot of marketing money flowing from traditional media into social media. Webtrends wants to expand its support in this growing space. Mobile devices is another growth area where they are working to enhance their offerings. As marketing people need to work across a broader array of channels, Webtrends wants to provide for better campaign management and coordination across all of these channels.
Alex brought up gaming consoles as another device where there is both marketing and analytic possibilities. He recently received a Playstation3 for Christmas. It has a large hard drive and an Internet browser. He can do email and chat and play games remotely with others. Communities are developing around these games and these communities will be fruitful targets for related marketing activities.
Alex said that his gaming console has also taken away the need for cable TV as he can get what he wants online. I have many friends who have also dropped cable and use their laptop for TV through services such as Hulu. When people watch TV through an online device there is much greater opportunity to collect data and interact with viewers than the traditional TV set. Alex said that the gaming console will likely become a channel for direct response ads in the near future. It already has some ads and related product information.
The same injection of intelligence is occurring as people switch to Kindles and other online readers such as the new Apple iPad. When you drop a print newspaper on a front door you have no way of tracking what people do with it. With online readers there is a whole range of data collection opportunities.
Alex closed by saying that Webtrends is defined by its relationships. These include customer relationships, relationships with the broader community, and the relationships that its customers establish with their customers. Having grown up in New Orleans I added that people here really appreciate the help that comes through bringing events like Engage to their city. Alex said that this event is also part of their plan to better support communities. They have moved a number of the Engage activities out of the hotel and into the city.
by Bill Ives
On January 27 Cisco announced the launch of the second I-Prize global innovation contest where entrepreneurs worldwide can collaborate and submit proposals for Cisco’s next billion-dollar business idea. I wrote about the first contest (see: Cisco I-Prize – Mining the Web and the World for Innovation) and the results. Following the first I-Prize, which drew nearly 2,500 entrepreneurs, this year participants will have access to an expanded portfolio of Cisco collaboration solutions to build on as they share their ideas with others globally. The winning team will be eligible for $250,000 in prize money.
There are four main categories as described by Cisco:
The future of work: Use the power of the network to bring together customers, suppliers and associates to propose solutions that will change the way companies and organizations do business.
The connected life: Showcase technological advancements that will dramatically improve living conditions and culture. This category will require people to envision a life of seamless connectivity.
New ways to learn: Create innovative solutions that will transform when, where and how people learn.
The future of entertainment: Devise next-generation solutions that will change how people play.
I like their topics. I-Prize contest participants will be able to use the following Cisco collaboration tools:
Cisco Show and Share, a social video community where contest participants can record, edit and share video; comment, rate and tag interesting content; and use speech-to-text translation for easy video search and viewing.
Cisco Pulse, a search platform that dynamically tags content as it crosses the network, allowing contest participants to accurately locate and rapidly connect with the best available experts and information on a particular topic.
Cisco WebEx™, an online meeting platform for audio and Web conferencing that enables users to share documents and desktops in real time.
Cisco TelePresence™, an immersive, virtual meeting experience that combines innovative real-time video, audio and interactive technologies to give people in distributed global locations a wide variety of face-to-face collaboration experiences.
This is a good way for Cisco to gain more exposure for its collaboration suite. I-Prize participants will also have access to a management platform, powered by Spigit, which enables participants to buy and sell ideas on an open market (see: Innovating Through Market Games with Spigit). The idea market lets contest participants establish the value of their ideas through trades. Shares of ideas are purchased with virtual currency awarded to participants based on the value of their contributions on the platform. This is the same platform being used by the upcoming Enterprise 2.0 conference to help participants and others evaluate potential sessions.
This program seems to be a win-win for Cisco as they get to harvest new ideas, showcase an innovative crowd-sourcing program, as well as feature their collaboration products.