Category Archives: Interview

Study of Top 20 Social CMOs in the Fortune 100

BusinessNext Social recently released the results of a study showing that only one in five CMOs on the Fortune 100 list are active participants in public social networks. I spoke with Mark Fidelman about the study, as well as his new book, Socialized!  How the World’s Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social.

The members of the list have demonstrated they “understand what it takes to grow and influence their own networks by using new strategies, cutting-edge social media and mobile technologies and compelling content marketing to build highly adaptive, high performance social businesses.”

Here is the list of the top ten:

  1. General Electric Company’s Beth Comstock (@bethcomstock) CMO and Senior Vice President
  2. Google, Inc.’s Nikesh Arora (@nikesharora), Senior Vice President and Chief Business Officer
  3. Apple, Inc.’s Philip Schiller (@pschiller), Senior Vice President, Worldwide Product Marketing
  4. IBM’s Jon C. Iwata (@coastw), Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications
  5. SAP’s Jonathan Becker (@jbecher), CMO
  6. Dell’s Karen Quintos (@KarenDellCMO), CMO
  7. Exxon Mobil Corporation’s Ken Cohen (@ken_cohen) Vice President of Public and Government Affairs
  8. Microsoft’s Chris Capossela (@chriscapossela), CMO
  9. Cisco Systems’ Blair Christie (@BlairChristie), Senior Vice President and CMO, Government Affairs,
  10. 10. Raytheon’s Pam Wickham ( @PamWickham1) Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications

The entire list of the top 20 can be found on the BusinessNext Social Blog.  Despite these leaders, the study also found strong CMO resistance to becoming more social.  While the top three have a combined Twitter following of nearly 94,000, 76% of CMOs have no Twitter following.  Only 15 executives have at least 100 subscribers on Facebook, and just 12 have Klout scores greater than 30.

Compared to a 2011 CMO study, the more social CMOs have extended their social reach, while the majority remain on the sidelines. These on the sidelines may be sent back to locker room as Mark notes that Gartner Research predicts the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO by 2017.  This investment will contain a large social media component.

I asked Mark about this hesitancy of CMOs to get involved. He said the following.

“The majority of today’s CMOs joined the C-suite long before the ‘Social Age’ by following the traditional marketing playbook.  In this scenario, the CMO assumes the “voice of the customer” within the company, based on privileged access to industry analysts and expensive focus groups.   Most fail to recognize the massive paradigm shift taking place from brands and traditional media to customers and social communities.  They have yet to tap into the  ubiquity of useful information from industry thought leaders, analysts, bloggers, etc. on social networks, which makes it possible for any employee to be as knowledgeable as the smartest marketing executive. “

I then asked, what will be the consequences of this inactivity?

“I believe that ignoring the move to social puts your career at risk.  I’ll even take this assertion a step further and predict that within 5 years, CMOs will become unemployable (as executives) if they don’t have a social presence. There will simply be too many other executive contenders with larger, more influential communities. For those in positions where communication and influence are key ingredients to success, having a large network will be a significant advantage and eventually an executive requirement.”

Next I asked, What can be done about it?

“Roll up your sleeves and get social.  Only by taking the time to participate in internal and external social networks will you learn how to build and influence communities and develop reciprocal relationships with influencers.”

 

 

Success with Social in Business: Review of Socialized! by Mark Fidelman

Happy New Year! Thought we’d start out the New Year with a power hitter on demystifying the wild world of social media – that is, for business.

What’s the tricks,  the secrets, the behind the scene aspects, and a whole slew of other obvious and not so obvious nuances that we think are good and godly advice in this  social marketing entrenched world that we all live in. Whether you like it, agree with it, do it, or not – one thing is sure: it’s here to stay, so we’d suggest, get on the train, or the train will leave the depot (or has already) without you!

To do this, AppFusions (and in particular me – Bill) was fortunateto receive a review copy of Mark Fidelman’s new book Socialized!  How the World’s Most Successful Businesses Are Harnessing the Power of Social. Mark is a a Forbes blogger and seasoned executive with many years and experience in the industry of social business. (More information on the book is also here.)

Mark Fidelman

In this very useful book, Mark presents the strategies and tactics of the world’s best social business organizations, including IBM, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, Google, JetBlue, and several small businesses.

Mark also offers a playbook that businesses can use today to make effective use of social business practices. In fact, McKinsey has predicted that there is over a trillion dollars in benefits waiting for those organizations who properly use social business practices so this is a worthwhile goal to pursue.

The book includes how to create and nurture a high performing “digital village” or internal social network. It also offers ways to connect with your “digital network” and build a community of brand advocates. It then includes how to manage a sales and marketing funnel with a social wrapper.

I asked Mark what motivated Mark to write the book?  He replied:

The majority of senior executives I meet are feeling a stinging sense of urgency that their businesses must adopt a true social business model if they are to remain relevant, sustainable and profitable.  However, most simply don’t know how to go about it.

I wrote Socialized! to give businesses a roadmap for capturing the power of social inside the organization and out.

Mark makes the very important point that successful social business starts inside your organization.

With the initial emphasis on social media marketing, this has often been overlooked as a crucial step toward social business success.

  • First, there are many internal efficiencies that can be realized by socializing business processes and these are part of the trillion that McKinsey counts.  Putting social media to work inside the organization is a topic I have often discussed (see, for example, Giving Social Media a Good Job).
  • Second, a focus on external social business alone, without an internal social business component, will not make the necessary transformation of the business culture to realize both the external and internal benefits. This crucial link is often coined/termed: “social business”.

There’s much debate out there on what’s the difference between ‘social business’ and ‘enterprise 2.0’, in terms of terms (for example, here on Quora) – and we won’t go into that debate here, but in short, both are about collaboration, bringing it together: people, systems, and processes, whether internal  external, or both.

Mark provides ten rules that are essential to build a culture achieve a closely connected business culture, or, as he refers to it, a “digital village.”  Developing this digital village mentality allows for the creation and sharing of critical content across the enterprise. Aspects include: employees, management, operations, processes, workflow, technology, strategy, standards, and governance. It requires the updating of structures, processes, and workflow and making the investments to ensure these efforts succeed.

I am glad that Mark includes technology. Too often, people say, “well, it is not about the technology, but the people.”

Actually it is about both. For the connected enterprise or digital village to work, you certainly have to have the right culture in place. AND you also have to have the applications integrated so there are actually connections within the digital workflow. This second fact is often overlooked and then you end up with a bunch of frustrating silos.

Mark offers eight requirements for the digital village. These include developing a code of conduct and realigning the village to make it a social environment. Then you need to deploy social platforms to support the infrastructure of the digital village.

This is where application integration comes into play. Now you can leverage the collective intelligence of the village. To make it real you also need training and a more human focus to HR.

Finally, analytics need to be put into place to gauge the health of the digital village and make adjustments. Benefits need to be spread across the organization.

Once the internal digital village is in place you can turn toward to market with a unified force. The term “markets as conversations” introduced ten years ago though the Cluetrain Maninfesto remains highly relevant. Communities become one of the main platforms for these conversations. Mark contrasts old model behavior that was centered around onward communication and the new model of actual exchanges.

I asked Mark, “What are the most critical things for organizations do to become socialized in an effective way?”

He replied with the following three points.

  • Connect and empower thought leaders.  ” I can’t emphasize enough that traditional marketing is dead.  Your customers don’t trust your advertising as much as they do the individuals they have been following for years, so make it a priority to build reciprocal relationships with influencers.   Once you’ve connected with them, you can work together to talk about the pains your customer community is experiencing, which your product can solve.”
  • Build or join an external community.  “Building an external community around your brand is one of the most powerful things you can do to positively impact sales, create goodwill, and generate ideas. It’s also an effective feedback vehicle. Imagine thousands of people discussing topics related (and sometime unrelated) to your products every day.Your community is answering support questions, helping other members with career aspirations, or just networking.  If your brand or product does not yet have enough authority to build a community around it, and if there is already a robust and thriving community where your customers are hanging out, then by all means join it. If your competitor is running it, you’ll need to create a community around another subject related to your product.”
  • Build internal online communities. “To support an adaptive organization, employees need to connect, share, and expand on ideas. This is a critical part of becoming a more social, adaptive organization. Employees must have the ability to share insight with each other easily and visibly. Imagine a professional sports team that doesn’t practice or share information about the opposing team. Indeed, imagine a sports team that doesn’t review its game tape. How effective would they be long term?”

There is much more including the rise of the social employee and a playbook to support and engage this employee.

The book is rich in practical examples and guidelines. I certainly recommend it to anyone embarking on a social business program.

Check it out for yourself on Amazon here!

 

Gliffy Brings Visualizations to Atlassian Confluence, JIRA and the Web

Visualizations are key to clear communication in many business situations. Gliffy makes it easy to create, share, and collaborate visually. Gliffy’s online version was launched in 2006 to bring simple to use visualization capabilities to the Web and a few months later, it added plug-ins for Altassian Confluence and JIRA. Now Gliffy is one of the most popular plugins in the Atlassian ecosystem.

Chris Kohlhardt
Chris Kohlhardt, CEO, Gliffy

I recently spoke with Chris Kohlhardt, Gliffy co-founder, to learn more about it and its capabilities.

Chris first related the company’s origins. He and his co-founder, Clint Dickson, were working with Web tools eight years ago before HTML5 and even Ajax. They used Open Lazlo and Chris even worked for Lazlo a year prior.

Chris and Clint decided to bring visualization capabilities to the Web. There were visualization tools around, but these tools were desktop based and tied to particular operating systems.  Going to the Web not only allowed those working on Macs and PCs to use the same tool, it made content sharing much easier in general.

Gliffy for Atlassian Confluence
Gliffy for Atlassian Confluence

Chris related how they got started with Atlassian.

In 2006, they released their first version of the online tool as a free app after a year of development. They then looked to generate revenue.

They felt that wikis would benefit from visualization tools. At first they approached some US-based wiki vendors, but these companies were absorbed in their own product development.

They heard about Atlassian and sent them an email.

Within a few days, Chris heard back from the co-CEO, Mike Cannon-Brookes. He was going to be in San Francisco and wanted to meet him. So they got together at the Atlassian San Francisco office.

Gliffy for Atlassian Confluence EditorWithin a few months, their Gliffy for Confluence plug-in was ready, thanks to Atlassian also helping them with some of the development.

Chris said that Open Lazlo complies to Flash byte code. As these tools are not used as widely now, Gliffy has now converted its product to HTML5 to comply with Open Standards.  Gliffy also did this because HTML5 has better developer support, increased support by modern web browsers, and support of mobile devices.

They have created visualizations to help software developers such as: BPMN, UML, Venn diagrams, user interface icons, and entity relationships.

With these out-of-the-box tools you can quickly mock things up, even if you are not good at creating visualizations. Gliffy has done most of the work for you.  You can see a sample editor screen below with many of the pre-defined shape sin the left column.

Gliffy Online version - EditorThe Gliffy plug-ins for Confluence and JIRA are not cloud-based, but they operate within Atlassian’s cloud-based platform OR  in a secure on-premise version.

Chris said that many Atlassian customers prefer to host their own apps for security reasons — even those customers that start with Atlassian’s OnDemand, who migrate to behind the firewall when their wiki becomes increasingly business critical.  However, Gliffy online will integrate with other cloud tools such as Google Docs and WordPress.

To the right is a sample Gliffy – JIRA plug-in screen.

Gliffy for Atlassian JIRAGliffy certainly can help and be very useful for issue tracking and resolution discussions.

Gliffy was one of the first Atlassian plugins. Now it has grown to become widely used and enabled Gliffy to become a very profitable company.

We think that Gliffy is a killer must-have enhancement to Confluence and JIRA, as well as a very useful online tool.

Try it yourself, for free, and see if you agree!

Atlassian Stash Powers Enterprise Application Developers with DVCS Git

Jens Schumacher, Group Product Managerm Atlassian Development Tools

I have written about Atlassian on this blog (see for example: Atlassian Makes Significant Moves into the Enterprise Market). In this post, I focus on Atlassian Stash. It provides Git repository management for Enterprise teams behind the firewall.

I spoke with Jens Schumacher, Atlassian’s Group Product Manager for developer tools. These tools include: Bamboo, Crucible, Fisheye, and Stash. Bamboo provides continuous integration and release management. Crucible supports code review and Fisheye allows you to search out source code artifacts of various source code management flavors and browse commits, files, revisions, or related people. It also integrates seamlessly with JIRA.

Enter Stash! Stash incorporates the latest and greatest technologies in DVCS source code management and Git, allowing you to create and manage repositories, set up fine-grained permissions, and collaborate on code in a secure, fast and enterprise-grade manner.

Jens continued, providing me more background on the development of Stash.

Stash is the latest in Atlassian’s developer tools suite and was released in the Spring of 2012. Atlassian’s existing developer tools are already quite popular in development houses, but still the developers wanted more. They wanted to be able to host code in their own repository behind the firewall.

More – engineers are always pushing the envelope: they wanted Git support, a massively popular and growing DVCS approach used in code development and management these days.

To cleanly meet this need in both a tool and extensibility, Atlassian decided to build Stash from scratch including a ground up extensible API approach, rather than on top of their existing tools.

Stash incorporates code review into the development workflow so the new code gets properly reviewed before it is merged with the existing source code.

To facilitate development, Stash allows developers to set up branches, where code changes can be made in isolation and reviewed before being integrated with the mainline. This separation makes development of new features less complex.

You can easily have new code reviewed while incorporating automated testing tools as well. Stash facilitates the merging of reviewed code into the core source code. This concept of a separate workflow for development is popular with open source efforts and Atlassian has now taken a leading industry position with the Stash offering, enabling this capability inside the firewall.

Integration efforts with Stash are already supported in a number of ways.

  • Per Jens, 80% of the Fortune 500, as well as many many smaller firms, use Atlassian JIRA for issue tracking.Stash is fully integrated with JIRA so you can link code in Stash to a JIRA ticket and track the progress of changes.
  • Stash also natively integrates with enterprise user directory systems, such as Active Directory or LDAP, to make deployment easier within the enterprise.In addition, again, Stash was built with an extensive REST API to make information within Stash easily integrate-able with other tools.

Jens gave me a simple use case. Their customers often want to migrate content from one repository to another or from the cloud to within the firewall. Stash can automate aspects of this common process to simplify the effort.

In the future, Stash will be enhanced with more branch permission capabilities to better ensure that all code gets reviewed before it is merged into the core source code. They are also working hard on scalability requirements to better serve their many large customers. Currently, Stash supports up to 500 user licenses. Finally, they are working on adding enhanced collaboration capabilities for code review.

Jens noted that Atlassian has a massive ecosystem. This is helpful as there already are a number of add-ons for Stash. For example, there is a badge add-on to acknowledge developers’ efforts and skills. Another is a chart add-on to provide statistics. AppFusions built a Stash commenting add-on for Atlassian’s annual CodeGeist competition. Also, add-ons are available to help with different workflows that organizations have in place.

On top of all that, Atlassian’s very popular SourceTree DVCS client further removes DVCS source code tool complexity, and is used to support and guide the process of adding new workflows with proper controls within branching efforts, among other.

Customer response has been very positive since the release of Stash earlier this year. The timing was right for the release, as developers were ready for it.

Jens’ team is now providing new releases every 7 – 9 weeks, with many of the new capabilities coming from customer input.

New needs are always arising in enterprise software development efforts, and many organizations and third party developers want to tackle these needs. Stash provides enhanced support for these efforts.

Alfresco Continues to Enhance Its Content Management Offering, Enabling More Integration Touchpoints

Alfresco provides open source enterprise content management serving a variety of use cases. I covered them earlier in the year (see: Alfresco Brings its Open Source Document Management to the Cloud). Recently I spoke with Jeff Potts, their Chief Community Officer, to get an update and to go into their integration strategy in more depth.

Jeff Potts, Chief Community Officer, Alfresco

As Chief Community Officer, Jeff leads the Alfresco community. This includes partners, employees, developers, customers, and anyone else with an interest in Alfresco.  Indeed this is a large order, with over 200K downloads, and growing, of their content management server software to date – so that’s a large community.

Jeff focuses on the health of the community and makes sure it has the right tools, tutorials, forums, blog aggregation, wikis, and whatever else is useful to support collaboration and continue its growth. He also conducts outreach to other relevant communities to expand its awareness and participation.

The Alfresco open source offering is built on a repository for files of all types: documents, audio, video, images, and other types. Expanded access is made possible through its API using CMIS, an industry standard that is also used by other tools such as SharePoint and Documentum. CMIS uses “Web services and Web 2.0 interfaces to enable information sharing across content management repositories from different vendors.”

There are several applications that Alfresco has added on top of their repository. Share is a main one and it allows for users to share documents, calendars, links to support collaboration. In addition to collaboration and content management, use cases for Alfresco include records management and digital asset management.

Alfresco provides an on-premise Enterprise version of their software that is offered with support subscriptions. There is also a free community version available through the LGPLv3 open source license.  This year they have added a multi-tenant SaaS offering. This relieves clients of any hosting responsibilities so they can focus on organizing and using their content, not supporting the backend. Both the on-premise and SaaS version (cloud) have the same software and user interface.

With the cloud version, users can share content within the same domain since it is a multi-tenant offering. The cloud version also has a few less features at the moment, as basic document management is the primary use case. So the calendar, blogs, and wikis are not enabled at the moment. There are plans to make them also available in the cloud version in the future.

Next we discussed the Alfresco’s integration strategy.

Alfresco’s goal is to make Alfresco as open and available as possible. They want any interested developer to be able to work in the tools they are comfortable with to connect to the repository and create integrations. To enable this availability they have built APIs for both the on-premise and cloud versions.  While CMIS covers such functions as create, read, update, delete, Alfresco wanted a richer experience, so they added additional features to the API specific to Alfresco such as rating and comments.

AppFusions has worked with Alfresco to create integrations with Atlassian’s JIRA issues tracking tool and Confluence wiki. Both integrations are plugin and play, and provide seamless integration with Alfresco document management capabilities.

  • Alfresco in JIRA

    The JIRA integration allows Alfresco documents to be accessed, previewed, linked, edited, and downloaded – all from inside JIRA. Here’s a video.

  • The Confluence integration allows users to embed and access Alfresco file lists. Users can also preview, embed, print, download Alfresco files from Confluence.
    Alfresco in Confluence, v3.0 – List Macro

    Finally, when you edit an Alfresco document in Confluence, you are able to edit it in your favorite local Office application (MS Office, Apache Open Office, NeoOffice), and when done – the file is auto-magically saved back to Alfresco. Here’s a video.

AppFusions also has a Alfresco to Crowd authenticator, allowing for SSO (single sign-on) and user management of Atlassian and Alfresco via Crowd.

Collectively, these integrations really bring powerful platforms and brands, together. Best of worlds!

Alfresco has also recently released support for iOS and Andriod to enable developers to build mobile app integrations.  They are also expanding CMIS client-side libraries to better work with what Alfresco offers.

Alfresco has its third annual user conference, DevCon, coming up in November. This year the European version will be in Berlin, November 6 and 7. The US version will be in San Jose November 14-15.

The conferences will include technical workshops by Alfresco engineers and partners, case examples by users, and keynotes by the Alfresco leadership team. Both conferences will be preceded by a day of workshops for those new to Alfresco so they can more thoroughly engage with the event.

Jeff sees the use of the cloud continuing to expand and I would certainly agree. Alfresco will continue to offer more capabilities through the cloud. As CMIS becomes more widely used, they will make more CMIS-related tools available.

Alfresco is certainly moving in the right direction, hitting three of the main themes in the application marketplace with its expanding capabilities in social, mobile, and the cloud.

 

iRise Provides Functional Application Simulations to Accelerate Software Development

Visualizations through iRise give users the ability to create visual, interactive prototypes of new software projects that look and act just like the real thing, before a single line of code is written. This can be a major help in application development. I have written a bit about iRise before (see AppFusions’ Integrations of iRise® Visualization with Atlassian JIRA, Confluence).

Recently, I spoke with Pete Indelicato, Senior Product Manager at iRise, to get a broader overview of their capabilities and an update on their latest moves. Pete primary responsibility is understanding customer needs and defining solutions to meet those needs.  He then works closely with the iRise team of engineers to build out the solutions, as well as marketing for sales enablement.

Pete Indelicato, Sr. Product Manager at iRise

Most recently, Pete has been focused on “platform capabilities” based on APIs that let partners and customers leverage and extend the iRise platform.  He also manages the relationships with their integration partners, like AppFusions.

These extensions, like the Jira and Confluence integrations, allow the iRise platform to better fit into customers’ various processes and ecosystems, and the APIs lets other organizations contribute to and customize the capabilities of the iRise platform. iRise is in the middle of creating a new set of APIs focused on events and analytics.

I asked Pete for a brief overview of their Enterprise offering and how iRise helps their customers.  He began by saying that while communication is key to successful software development, many teams still rely on static documents, pictures and low fidelity click-through prototypes to communicate requirements, interaction design, and more.

For today’s rich, interactive software, these types of communication tools are not enough. The iRise platform allows teams to define and develop software collaboratively while focusing on a high-fidelity iRise simulation as the key communication asset.

These simulations can be constructed in a few minutes by non-technical business analysts or user experience professionals, without writing a single line of code.  You simply have to drag and drop application components to build a simulation. Then you add functionality by drawing lines indicating the course of user interactivity and data flow. In the screenshot, you can see a sample iRise studio screen on a tablet and a smart.

The simulations can then be used to communicate with business and technical stakeholders to make sure the organization is building the right thing.  Then, using other platform capabilities (such as RM integrations and code generation), the latter stages of the software definition and development can benefit from the ultra-realistic iRise simulation.

Pete went over several use cases. First, requirements solicitation can be made more effective. It can be difficult to engage business people who provide requirements when you are limited to offering them a text summary of the design with some static screen shots or a low-fi prototype. With iRise, the designer can show their team how the application looks and, more importantly, works to gather much more effective feedback and reduce the number of iterations and rework.

This same principle operates for interaction designs. Interaction designers can experiment with multiple approaches to solving the same problem while gathering useful feedback from potential users without having to build the software.

Then downstream, communication between designers and implementors is facilitated through the use of simulations of the design that look and act like the designer’s vision. Meanwhile, many related tasks such as documentation and training development, and even selling, can get a critical jump start while the application is still being built based on the iRise simulations.

Pete said that the iRise simulations are the most realistic simulations you can create without writing code and that is one of the reasons they call them “simulations”, not “prototypes”. They not only look accurate (visual fidelity), but act accurate: the user interactions and the data/logic in the simulation are also high-fidelity.  This latter capability is particularly important for efficient software development.

In most cases, the simulations that their customers create are indistinguishable from the production product, developed through code, that comes out months later.

When you think about the level of engagement, quality of communication, and all the parallel activities that iRise simulations bring to the table, the advantage integrations and extensions into a variety of ecosystems becomes clear.

I next asked Pete about their application integration strategies.

He said that very few software engineering / development organizations have identical ecosystems (tools, processes, habits, etc.).  iRise could spend many many thousands of dollars trying to make a complex “one size fits all” product, but instead they are choosing to open their product to integration.  This strategy not only facilitates more efficient internal development of their iRise Connect products, but it allows customers like AT&T and partners like AppFusions to build additional extensions and integrations that help iRise fit in other ecosystems.

iRise Catalog in Confluence. Select Simulation to embed and collaborate around.

The simulations are built on web technologies (HTML, CSS3, etc.). That makes them easily embeddable into other web-based platforms like Confluence and JIRA.  Putting iRise simulations in context of the collaborative environments and other development assets (e.g. story cards) makes that blend of information an ultra-effective communication asset.  Then, when team members not familiar with iRise simulations start to see them embedded in streams and story cards, they will start asking “Where can I get one of those?!”

Pete offered specific use cases for the Confluence and JIRA integrations that AppFusions created. Developers often use the Confluence wiki to create requirements documents. You can embed iRise simulations right in the Confluence-based requirements documents (videolisting). For the JIRA integration,  the issue tracking tool, is often used for more granular requirements or specific issues. (video | listing.)

OCT 8 – 10, 2012 in Las Vegas, NV

Again, iRise simulations can make the communication and handling of these development related issues much more efficient and effective.

Visualize 2012 is this year’s version of iRise’s annual conference where they gather practitioners, customers, and thought leaders for three days of workshops, presentations and socializing.  The 2012 session will occur in Las Vegas, October 8-10.  Speakers include Graeme Hackland, the Lotus F1 Team’s IT/IS Director responsible for all the Team’s Information Systems and many members of the iRise team, including CEO, Emmet Keeffe. They will also be doing workshops on their iConnect capability covering all the ways to use their APIs.

Live preview of linked iRise Simulation in JIRA.

Pete said they are very excited about the potential of their APIs because every day, it seems, someone has a new, inventive idea about a new integration, report, extension, etc.  Of course, they build the APIs with specific use cases in mind, but without fail someone outside of iRise thinks of a way of using iRise APIs in ways they never thought of.  He added that it is a good day every time that happens!

Pete is thankful that innovative companies like AppFusions and SquareOne Solutions are willing to spend some time exploring the possibilities with them. As iRise moves forward it is continuing to expand the number and type of API calls to support further integrations. They are also making significant infrastructure changes to support their more rapid product development.

Contegix Provides Total Cloud Care with Direct Managed Hosting

Contegix provides a variety of cloud hosting options through an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offering coupled with managed services. These include:

I recently spoke with Matthew Porter, their CEO. He said that, simply put, they lift the burden of technology off their customers so their customers can focus on what they do well and do what makes them unique.

Matthew Porter, CEO, Contegix

As we talked, I learned that one of the things that makes Contegix unique is the culture of customer service they have developed throughout the company. As Matthew rightly tells his employees, this is so critical because

…they are taking care of the livelihoods of their customers. They are trusted with managing the essential data that makes their customers succeed, so they need to treat both their customers’ data and concerns with the utmost respect.

Their premium offering is direct managed hosting. With this service, Contegix takes care of everything for you. Customers receive the highest level of compliance, security and completely dedicated hardware.

From set-up and installation to management and monitoring, they can remain focused on their business while Contegix handles 100% of their technology. Their engineers install and manage a customer’s complete hosting and application infrastructure and are available to assist on a 24/7 basis. In addition, by monitoring usage patterns and benchmarking performance, Contegix can identify and fix problems before they impact a customer’s services.

Contegix data centers are powered by premium hardware, personalized for each customer that they manage. The data centers feature full redundancy for all critical systems; from servers and switches to SANs.  Replacement equipment is available, immediately, at all times

They host and manage multiple types of applications, including Atlassian, Zimbra, Subversion and many others. They also support home-grown apps, including complex multi-tiered applications. There are also many options for self-management where Contegix provides the infrastructure for those firms that want to do things themselves.

“Our Go Beyond”

I asked Matthew about what is special about Contegix. Without hesitation, he quickly replied with “Our Go Beyond” philosophy. In short, they compete on quality of service. They recruit employees and train them with this in mind.

The need to support customers and the importance of Contegix service to their customers’ success is a central theme of employee orientation. It means going beyond getting good customer satisfaction metrics to handling each situation with the utmost care and concern. It means acknowledging not just the technical aspects of a customer question, but the emotional component as well.

Empathy is a key trait and central part of the Contegix culture.

Contegix works with AppFusions to provide customization services for their customers’ apps, such as Atlassian JIRA, Confluence, Crowd, or the rest of their development applications where custom application development, extensions, or connectors are required. This skill is not part of Contegix’s core service and they feel that AppFusions has the same customer empathy model so the two firms complement each other.

Importance of Data Security

Data security is always a central concern when operating in the cloud and Contegix takes a multi-level approach.

  • They have internal processes in place and make sure all employees are completely vetted with background checks.
  • They work with clients to educate them on security issues.

As Matthew said, you can have the greatest security system in the world in place, but if someone leaves the door open, leaks will occur. So they orient their clients to the risks and responsibilities on their end.

One reason that clients choose Contegix is because they can reduce costs. There has been much documentation about the lower operating costs in the cloud.

Lifting the Technology Burden

A second, and perhaps even more important reason, is that Contegix lifts the technology burden off of the customer so they can focus on what they do well, as I mentioned earlier.  Internal IT can then focus on supporting internal projects/products specific to their own business – not their underlying infrastructure required to support those internal projects.

I asked Matthew about the obstacles to “moving to the cloud” when there are so many obvious proven benefits. He said it is often organizationally political, as some people are set in their past, traditional ways and have a false sense of security by being able to touch the infrastructure. In addition, some IT departments are so overwhelmed with new responsibilities, like BYOD, that they do not have time to really investigate the options with the cloud.

In Sum

There is a lot of misinformation floating around about the cloud that can get in the way unless you take the time to learn the reality.

I really like the Contegix approach. It is the right thing to do and also makes good business sense. In a new area where there is uncertainty and concerns, it is better to address those concerns directly and empathically, creating a sense of trust and comfort with customers.

To learn more about Contegix services or direct managed hosting for your applications (24×7 monitored, no headaches, technically skilled hosting), email us at info@appfusions.com. We can sort through the myriad of good options with you!

Interview by Bill Ives of the Merced Group, and who also blogs at Portals and KM.

Jive’s Platform Enables Comprehensive Enterprise Integration

Creating the connected enterprise is the key to driving business value in today’s economy. When over 84% of the value in S&P 500 firms is derived from intangible assets, the content within employee’s minds, facilitating collaboration across the enterprise in the context of work brings more of those minds to focus on solving meaningful challenges.

It leverages the firm’s most expensive investment, its people, to build revenue. Application integration is a foundation for this collaboration and Jive has certainly recognized this need in their product strategy.

I recently spoke with Mark Weitzel, about their integration strategy. We began with an overview of the Jive social business platform.

Mark Weitzel, Jive’s Director of Platform and Ecosystem

It is built to enable several use cases. One is building internal social intranets, supporting collaboration across the enterprise to break down silos through such features as activity streams and social groups to achieve the value described above.

Another is enabling external support groups. In this case companies set up external customer communities to address questions from other customers. These efforts have shown to both build customer engagement and loyalty and reduce support costs.

Mark said that Jive recognized the need to have integration with a firm’s legacy systems, their custom systems, and their other third party systems to put their own capabilities where work gets done. I could not agree more.

Jive did their research and found that their customers spent 34% less time searching for information and experts, had 28% fewer support calls, a 33% increase in customer satisfaction, and a 34% increase in brand awareness after they implemented Jive.

This supports the value of the use cases described above and is consistent with research by McKinsey on the value of the connected enterprise (see The rise of the networked enterprise: Web 2.0 finds its payday (2010) and How social technologies are extending the organization (2011).

“What Matters” Streams

The key to getting this value was opening up their platform so collaboration could more easily occur across applications. To facilitate meaningful collaboration they provide such capabilities as an activity stream called “What Matters”.

What Matters Jive Screenshot

In this case Jive allowed employees to move away from the fire hose of content provided by many activity streams to focus the content through several means.

Jive’s What Matters stream intelligently provides only the relevant information to the user based on the information that is visible to them and the relationships they have in the system. For example, if you are a member of a group, then you will see all the activity for that group.

In addition, Jive’s activity stream delivers targeted information a user’s social “inbox”. The social inbox is managed by the user and they can choose what information is delivered there.

The user can set up custom activity streams that combine information that is relevant to their specific context. For example, to quickly and easily follow all the activity of a company’s executive staff, a user could simple setup a custom stream and select the relevant e-staff members. In addition, Jive created a recommendation engine that pushes content to you based on your behavior in the system.

Application Integration Strategy

Jive based its application integration strategy on OpenSocial.

They made a significant move to adopt this opne, community driven standard and Mark is now the President of the OpenSocial Foundation. OpenSocial defines a Web based component model for the delivery is cloud applications along with a set of social APIs that allow an application to be easily embedded into a platform and take advantage of its social elements, e.g. the connections between people and their activities.

It gives a clear programming model and an easy way to use APIs. This allows legacy applications to be integrated with today’s leading edge social collaboration platforms. You can give legacy systems a “social life”.  This allows the creation of connections where employees might not have previously used an application.

For example, AppFusions built a JIRA in Jive application that enables this integration on a seamless basis. (Here’s the video.) There are many situations where one employee might not have access to application where much needed content resides. For example, while the IT department might use JIRA for issue tracking, a sales person who does have JIRA might want access to the JIRA status on a customer issue. Now with the JIRA in Jive connector, they can bring JIRA into a Jive conversation and ask about how the issue is progressing.

Embedded Experiences

I asked Mark about their next steps in integration. He showed me an interesting demo where you can have embedded experience form multiple applications in an activity stream. He started a discussion in Jive. Then he referenced an INXPO Social TV event to in the content.

Next, he brought in additional content from Wikipedia, and CrunchBase. Activity around discussions naturally flow into the stream in Jive, and because of this other users were able to gain visibility into this exchange of information.

The technology that these interactions are built with is using OpenSocial’s embedded experiences. Jive calls our realization of that “!App Experiences”.

I asked Mark more about that. He told me Jive’s !App Experiences is an exciting way to embed applications directly into Jive content, e.g. a discussion. Because the application is embedded with the content, the application is available wherever the content is.

Mark then logged in as another person and could access all the content right within the activity stream without having to go to the other applications or have them installed. This provides for a very rich collaborative environment. It allows you to contribute to a conversation where you are working.

Jive’s activity stream (“What Matters”) intelligently determined that this person should see the content that Mark created. When they looked at that activity stream entry, the artifacts that the application embedded in content were clearly indicated as special links.

When the user clicked on an embedded !App Experience, the application opened and the user was able to have a rich interaction right from where they were in Jive (again, in this case, the activity stream).

And here the activity is fully expanded.

And here is the Goshido action opened.

Finally, you can also create action tasks for follow up to the original post in yet another tool, such as Goshido. Now multiple applications are linked around a work activity.Jive is the glue that brings all these application together.

It was very impressive and an excellent demonstration of how the connected enterprise should operate.

AppFusions is also working on !Apps Experience integrations with Atlassian Confluence, JIRA, GreenHopper, Fisheye, Crucible, Bamboo, and Stash (Enterprise Git). AppFusions will be showcasing these integrations at JiveWorld12, in October.

Early demos of these integrations can be scheduled now however, by contacting AppFusions at info@appfusions.com.

Interview by Bill Ives of the Merced Group, and who also blogs at Portals and KM.

Atlassian Makes Significant Moves into the Enterprise Market

I have covered Atlassian several times on the AppGap blog (see for example – Atlassian Implementing OpenSocial within Enterprise Applications). Recently I spoke with Atlassian’s Matt Hodges, Confluence Product Marketing Manager, and Bill Arconati, Confluence Product Manager to catch up on their latest moves. We covered several topics, beginning with their increased support for large enterprises.

Matt said that with the release of JIRA 5.0 they have launched a multi-pronged effort to expand their support for the increasing number of enterprises that are adopting Altassian products on a larger scale.  First, there is now a dedicated 24/7 telephone support team to address enterprise issues.

Matt Hodges, Confluence Group Product Marketing Manager, Atlassian

This is a great move that I wish more software providers offered.  Also, included with your Enterprise Atlassian JIRA license, there is free administrator training that focuses on how to handle large instances. An Enterprise-customer-only online-support community is also now in place with quarterly input and support meetings. In addition, there are developers on the Atlassian product teams that focus only on ”Enterprise” issues. They are addressing issues like scalability (for both users and content), as well as performance.

While this increased enterprise effort started with JIRA, plans are in place to also address Enterprise-level issues with Confluence. One move to make Confluence more accessible for enterprise users was the rebuilding of the editor that was launched with Confluence 4.0, making it easier for the non-technical user. There continues to be focused ongoing improvements in this area. I can attest to this as I have been using Confluence a lot recently and I find it quite intuitive.

See screen and explanations below.

Bill pointed out that Confluence has always been aimed at the enterprise and the business user since it first started in 2004. That was one of its distinguishing features versus the open source wikis available at the time.

Bill Arconati, Confluence Group Product Manager, Atlassian

This focus has driven usage by an ever-increasing number of business users in large organizations. Logically, they have now added new layers of support and product development to accommodate them.

We next talked about adoption. Matt said that Atlassian focuses on tools for teams that build products. Its initial clients were in IT and product development groups.  But product development goes beyond IT to such areas as marketing and support, which of course subsequently expose Confluence to larger numbers of users.

Atlassian continues to add features to increase adoption by these newer audiences. The complete rebuilding of the editor is one example. Bill added that they have continued to make the design intuitive and also provide more on-boarding support. Among much others, Atlassian are working on a new solution for providing templates out-of-the-box, including business process ones to help new users see value faster.

I asked about Atlassian’s expanding customer base, as their list is quite impressive. They said from the beginning the business model has been bottoms-up adoption. They have made the product and the price points attractive to teams so that senior executive budget approvals are not required. Then the product spreads through the organizations as people find that it is easy to use and it helps them get their jobs done better.

Atlassian has focused on what their users tell them, rather than what analysts prescribe. This has been very successful. For example, when someone moves to a new role or a new job, they take Confluence with them.

I think this bottoms-up approach to sales is even more relevant today in the world of BYOD and self-provisioning, as users no longer rely completely on IT to furnish apps – users are taking matters into their own hands.

One important move for Atlassian in this direction was the release of their software as a service (SaaS) offering – an on-demand version of Confluence. Users can more easily self-provision and you can also start with a 30-day free trial of the on-demand version.

This combination of On-Demand and instant trials has significantly increased the number of trials to more than 50 a day and has lead to many new users. It has also increased the sales of the on-premise version, or still opt that direction.

We next covered their enterprise integration strategy. I think this is key since without integration across other apps that customers use daily, more silos are created and proper workflow does not occur. Matt said that they have built a platform in all their products that accepts add-on integrations and opening the door to third-party developers, like AppFusions among others, to build integrated  solutions.

The recent released of the Atlassian Marketplace at the end of May 2012 was a major move in this direction. Third-party developers can place their add-ons in the marketplace and Atlassian handles all the business issues, including payments. This is a win for all parties as customers only have to deal with one source at the procurement level: Atlassian vs. third-party developer “shops” spread across the globe. Some third-party developers report that their evaluations have more than tripled.

Bill pointed out that the integration requirements are not limited to legacy Enterprise apps. They are getting demand for integration add-ons for other cloud-based tools like Google Docs, Box and Dropbox, all of which are being met in the Marketplace.

He added that plug-ins go well-beyond simple connectivity integration issues, including also allowing for increased functionality. And these cloud-tools are not just used by consumers or SMBs these days. More and more large customers are starting to also adopt these tools, for both cost advantages and IT convenience.

I like the flexibility of their business model and the creation of the marketplace where everyone wins.

All of the moves to support the enterprise that we discussed make a lot of sense and I can see why sales have grown significantly. I look forward to seeing what happens next.

We closed with the idea of covering the release of Confluence 4.3 in early September that will have major new capabilities. You can try it now though; the early access release is available now.

==

Updated 8/17/2012: Just released Open Webinar on JIRA Enterprise offering (and mentions abt upcoming Confluence Enterprise). Another valuable presentation: JIRA State of the Union, Atlassian Summit 2012

Interview by Bill Ives of the Merced Group, and who also blogs at Portals and KM.

UserVoice Enables Customer Engagement through Online Support and Feedback

UserVoice provides software to support help desks and engage customers in providing useful feedback. I recently spoke with CEO, Richard White, who said that their goal is to help Web-based companies better understand their online customers in the context of providing them with help.

They do not want to simply provide help desk support but also increase customer engagement. This is a wise move as it can only also increase customer loyalty and revenue.

Richard White, CEO, UserVoice

In the past few years there has been a significant increase in the number of companies that operate exclusively online. The relative low cost of doing virtual business is enabling smaller companies to get into the market.

The issues facing this new breed of companies are very different than traditional brick and mortar firms that set up a Web presence. UserVoice is designed to address the needs of this new breed of companies.

Richard made the very important point that companies that are exclusively online have few ways to interact directly with their customers except in help situations. Without a feedback system such as UserVoice, the only remaining form of feedback is revenue swings and companies need to stay ahead of this curve if the potential direction is downward.

These companies also face the need to support large numbers of customers with small staffs. UserVoice allows them to operate at scale with small support staffs. It offers two interrelated solutions: UserVoice Helpdesk™ and UserVoice Feedback™ .

UserVoice Helpdesk™ provides a simple, easy to use platform for customer support. Their target population for this offering is support teams ranging from 3 to 15 members so it is not overburdened with unnecessary features for this population. It is actually available for free for only one agent seat. Here is a sample support queue screen.

UserVoice Sample Support Queue Screen
UserVoice Sample Support Queue Screen

Some companies operate with one person or a rotating team of people and make full use of this free version. Others use the single seat to test it out before obtaining licenses for additional seats.

The HelpDesk is for support tickets to track customer requests. Instant Answers™ (see below) reduces the need to answer the same question over and over as it provides customers with relevant answers while they’re submitting a support request. Customers can give support staff kudos at any point in the support process which further encourages proactive customer service.

UserVoice Instant Answers
UserVoice Instant Answers

Here is a kudos screen.

UserVoice Leaderboard Screen
UserVoice Leaderboard Screen

UserVoice’s other offering, UserVoice Feedback™ makes it easy to collect feedback from customers — prioritized by votes — via a simple feedback forum. It is their more unique offering.

UserrVoice Partial Sample Voting Screen
UserVoice Partial Sample Voting Screen

Many large companies that already have entrenched and complex help desk systems still make use of UserVoice Feedback to collect customer input and increase engagement – both inside their organization’s firewall, as well as from external customers. Customers can easily submit and discuss ideas without having to sign up for a new account. Their voting system also prevents fraud and vocal minorities from distorting the true voice of the customer. Here is a partial sample voting screen.

Richard described how the Feedback management system interacts with other tools.  For example, AppFusions has built a connector with Atlassian JIRA, the widely adopted issue tracking tool (i.e., UserVoice to JIRA integration).

This allows companies to act on the feedback. Once the proper actions have occurred inside product management or engineering, then the results are passed back from JIRA to UserVoice Feedback to alert the customers of the result of their input. Here is an email notification of an update.

UserVoice Status Update
UserVoice Status Update

Richard said that this integration is key, as UserVoice does not want to be a point solution but part of an integrated customer response system. He mentioned that while most applications have APIs for connecting, it is not always easy. Having a ready-made integration tool through AppFusions makes this essential connection easy.

Putting customer input into JIRA also has the added benefit of letting engineers and product development people see what customers really want. Those responsible for product upgrades can see the actual numbers connected with requests to help guide their decisions.

Many studies have shown that customer involvement in product development increases the possibility of product success. This has also always been my personal experience too.

Understanding the voice of the customer has become an increased market need in the past few years. UserVoice addresses this need for online companies, providing a means for ongoing customer engagement at both the daily service level and for product improvement.

If you have additional questions on UserVoice or the JIRA integration, please do not hesitate to contact AppFusions at info@appfusions.com and we’ll help you – or get you going on a trial asap!

Interview by Bill Ives of the Merced Group, and who also blogs at Portals and KM.