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 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

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 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.

AppFusions’ Integrations of iRise® Visualization with Atlassian JIRA, Confluence

Recently AppFusions announced a partnership with iRise®, a provider of enterprise visualization solutions to allow for simulations of Atlassian JIRA and Confluence to speed enterprise software development.

I have been familiar with the power of software visualizations for some time and have interviewed a number of venders in this space. It can be a transformative break-through for both software development and the creation of related training.

iRise visualization gives users the ability to create visual prototypes of new software projects that look and act just like the real thing, before a single line of code is written. The technology lets stakeholders and target users “kick the tires” on new applications, including mobile apps, and give feedback while it’s still easy and less costly to make changes.

iRise Simulations for Confluence

With iRise for Confluence users can embed iRise visualizations directly within Confluence pages, enabling others to interact with and comment on live, working simulations without leaving the page.

Through live simulations, vague textual use case descriptions are strengthened and quickly understood, saving endless hours of design time and confusion between engineering and product teams.

Here Is a video on how it works.

iRise Simulations for JIRA

With iRise for Confluence, users can easily link to and preview working iRise visualizations from any JIRA issue. Associating JIRA tasks with iRise simulations naturally speeds development. There is no faster way to understand an “agile story” or use case than through a live simulation.

Here is a video on this integration.

The demands that stem from the exploding use of such mobile platforms such as the iPhone and the iPad in business—often referred to as “the consumerization of IT” have put many organizations under intense pressure to create business applications for stakeholders who expect to take their apps with them wherever they go, and who are quickly irritated by even small usability flaws.

iRise’s patented software visualization technology helps companies and government agencies meet these raised expectations of elegant design and ease of use. I think that this type or visualization or simulation is a capability that has come at the right time to help unlock what might have been a huge cost and time bottleneck for IT.

If you’d like to try iRise with Confluence or JIRA, please request an evaluation license from AppFusions.

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

Summary of 2012 Boston Enterprise 2.0

I was pleased to be back for my sixth Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston. Here is a link to a summary listing of my 2012 Boston Enterprise 2.0 notes and here is a summary of my notes for 2011.

I found several themes with this year’s event. In this post I cover three of the most significant: communities, big data, and the integration of social applications and work.


First, there was a lot of discussion about online communities. As my Merced Group partner, Catherine Shinners noted in her session, “Building an Online Community from Strategy, Planning, and Launch to Effective Engagement and Adoption”, in 2007 there was only one session on communities and now it is a major theme. One reason for the increased interest is the rise in strategic importance of online communities.

In 1982 38% of assets within the S&P 500 companies were intangible. In 1999 84% of assets were intangible and I am sure it is higher now.  Enabling the sharing use of these intangible assets held within people’s minds is a significant driver of both social business, in general, and communities as a specific instance.

This is a major transformation. However, companies still relate to their workforce as though it was 1950 and focus on top down management build on running a company based on tangible assets. Now the value in companies lies in the ability to connect people to optimize their intangible assets but this is largely untapped. Communities are a major way to do this and there were a number of sessions on how to manage communities to this end.

Big Data

Andrew McAfree

Another theme was Big Data. In a conference keynote Andrew McAfee, explained how the rise of “Big Data” is not only changing the face of technology, but, he argues, the nature of human existence. He also noted that the topic has been a bit over hyped. While I would agree with the last statement, I also agree with comments on the impact on technology.  Today there is much more to consume and analyze, both in structured data and unstructured content.

However, I would not go so far are to say, as Andy does, that machines will be our new masters. Before we bow down too low to our new masters I would say “it depends.” As Don Norman argues in “Things That Make Us Smart” it is time for us to adopt a more human-centered perspective and to insist that informational technologies enhance and complement human cognitive capacities rather than undermine them.

One of the keys here is creating connections between systems so data can move easily from one application to another for better analysis and visualization. For example, as Jeff Schick notes, IBM looks at relevant content on Facebook and LinkedIn and brings it inside the enterprise to analyze it and develop responses. They also look to leverage social content with their business partners.

So the issue is not whether computers will outpace people but how the two can work together. Computers are very good at doing boring tedious, repetitive tasks that drive people crazy at a rate and scale far beyond what people can do. This frees people up to do the more complex and interesting tasks. Application connectors are one of the keys to enable humans to master Big Data.

Integration of Social Applications and Work

To provide business value social tools need to be embedded into workflow and they need to be able to communicate with each other around workflow issues.  Application integration is a major key to enterprise 2.0 success and there were a number of sessions that addressed this issue. Kashyap Kompella stated in his session, “Social as a Layer, Not a Place: Are We There Yet?”, that enterprises are making progress in connecting the social layer with enterprise applications but more needs to be done. He noted that the problem is that social software is often treated as another box in the enterprise tech stack.

How do we make social become a service or a layer and not a siloed box?  You can use APIs and custom connectors. Kashyap showed several examples, including JIRA linked to Socialcast and tibbr linked to Oracle Expense.

Another related session on designing social applications noted that enterprises face the challenge of adapting these tools to their environment and integrating applications that predate the social software era.

Mark Weitzel of Jive and President, OpenSocial Foundation called for the use of standards to help with this integration.

Mark said they wanted to invoke apps within Jive in an easy way wherever you are and put it into the flow within the activity stream and OpenSocial allows for this. I agree and think workflow integration is a major key to getting value form social tools.

A complementary approach is to build connectors between applications which is one of the significant themes of this blog. AppFusions’ CEO, Ellen Feaheny, said that what makes an app social is the notifications and things that capture your attention to create and pull engagement. The AppFusions team is working with Atlassian, IBM, Jive, and others on social business integrations.  Through first defining common pain points/use cases, they have been building integrations to cover these cases.

Mark stated that a good social app connects people and supports collaboration. You can understand the details within workflow so disconnected people can connect around common issues. It brings a new level of agility. You get dynamic realignments based on the transparency within the social apps.

Ellen added that the old world contained file servers and documents that were passed around. This is still the case for many organizations. To have the documents embedded in the workflow and activity stream puts them in your face. Things are done much faster and no one can hide and documents do not get hidden.

This transparency is one of the opportunities of social business (aka enterprise 2.0) that is still underutilized. Connectors are one way to enable this promise. All three of these themes have a common goal, getting people and content connected in a way that provides business value and realizes the promise of enterprise 2.0.

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

Crowdsourcing into the future – a report on Crowdopolis LA

Our friend, Catherine Shinners of the Merced Group recently posted a comprehensive review of the conference, Crowdopolis, that we want to share here given the context: crowdsourcing.  

Before that though – an AppFusions comment:

While bringing enterprise collaboration systems together via integrations is Appfusions’ “thing” – we obviously can only do that well by also possessing a solid belief and passion in the notion of crowdsourcing to bring together the people.

The platforms do this, the integrations do this, we do this (internally), and of course we also do this with our partners and customers in our business approaches.

Crowdsourcing collaboration is no longer just a good idea – it is a mandatory idea in today’s competitive market to deliver innovation – whatever kind, with fast, smart, and solid agile iterative ways.

That said, following is a great and thorough recap from Catherine on this theme:

The Daily Crowdsource hosted a conference at USC’s Davidson Center on Thursday, July 19. Crowdopolis, a fast-paced, day-long event, showcased crowdsourcing as a growing force in changing the structure of work. new business model development, high impact relationship building with customers, widening and accelerating innovation opportunities, and streamlining business processes (middle managers, start re-thinking your careers).

Using the Crowd to Innovate with Efficiency

Crowdsourcing is often associated with widely-cast ideation used as a way to innovate or solve problems, and as kick-off keynote speaker, innovation consultant and author Stephen Shapiro noted, simply asking for ideas can be a bad idea.

Many crowdsourcing initiatives become ‘glorified suggestions boxes,’ according to Shapiro, and he cautioned, especially for enterprise efforts, to ask a crowd for a solution also means having executive ownership, and organizational home for evaluators, transparent evaluation criteria and the resources to implement winning solutions.

Crowdsourcing in this context is about innovating efficiently, not just about casting a wide net, and so it’s vitally important to be thoughtful about posing the question or the problem to solve.  A key value of crowdsourcing can be to tap into varied sources of expertise and knowledge outside of a domain — Sharpiro used the example of a decades-long issue posed by submerged oil from the Exxon Valdez spill.

The problem of how to safely extract oil from icy Alaskan waters without the oil freezing had vexed hundreds of oil experts, but a chemist from the construction industry with expertise in cement had the answer.

Crowdsourcing – Building on Expert Community Strength

Crowdsourcing within a domain also has its value, and several companies utilize the approach within an expert community as a key enabler to their service delivery models.

Topcoder is a software product development company that brings the expertise of over 400,000 developers from around the world to deliver services along the spectrum of the software development lifecyle.  Indeed, Topcoder has atomized the work processes in that cycle such that it enables them to draw out hyperspecialists from their community.

New projects are sourced out to their community via contests – Topcoder has developed more than 30 specialist contest types and their developers compete by delivering a completed project.   Using this model, Topcoder then chooses the highest quality product and the coder is renumerated.   The second ranking coder does receive some renumeration, and the third receives points towards a monthly ranking and recognition program.

According to Mike Moore, SVP at Topcoder, the best quality product is obtained for the project, while the contests drives skills improvement of others in the community and reduces the ‘single-points-of-failure’ issue in projects – when three people do each task, there’s a better chance of rapid completion of product.   Topcoder’s clients include Google, Comcast (for whom they built the set-top box technology for iPad and Android devices) and the U.S. Government, including DARPA and Medicaire (this project was for real-time fraud detection).

uTest, according to CMO Matt Johnston, is the largest marketplace for software testing services with over 60,000 testers in their community from 190 countries.   These testers provide testing for functional, load, security, usability and other tests and have worked with startups, enterprises and NGOs.  uTest uses their crowd to deliver work product to projects requiring specialized skill sets and lets them scale their capacity to meet variable demand.

Both Moore of Topcoder and Johnston of uTest spoke of the importance of community to their businesses.  Each company manages an extensive community of expert members and provide them access to community resources, validates and affirms their skills and contributions through well-structured recognition programs, and draws in the community to contribute skilled training and learning programs.   The communities seems to function as guilds of experts, with work made available to the community through crowdsourcing.

It’s not all about software development and testing.   GeniusRocket provides video advertising services from its community of 600+ professionals who have been vetted for experience and quality work.  GuideRocket moved away from a contest model, according to CEO, Peter LaMotte, and now uses a process of curated crowdsourcing that protects clients strategies and messages.   Smartling provides crowdsourced language translation services for websites and mobile apps.

Crowdsourcing for Innovation

Several companies used crowdsourcing in ways that supports co-creation of business and innovation, enhances brand standing, and leads to new business investment and business models.

Stephen Pajieg, Senior Director of Corporate Growth and Innovation for Kimberly-Clark discussed a new initiative that was targeted as a complementary source of innovaton for the Huggies brand.  Looking at a target market of six millions entrepreneurial moms in the U.S., Kimberly-Clark created an online innovation program, Huggies MomInspired,  that makes cash grants of $15,000. to innovators to use as they see fit to advance their businesses or new business ideas.

Now in its third year in the U.S. market, the program also provides aspiring entrepreneurs with basic business information for the small business owner.   Winning grantees are also able to be mentored by Kimberly-Clark employees and can join a community to share experiences and get support from other entrepreneurs.  The company’s profile with their customers is enhanced as less than 3% of financial investments are made to the more than 10 million women own businesses in the U.S., according to Pajieg.

GE’s Healthymagination challenge crowdsourced ideas for innovation in breast cancer treatment, and awarded $100,000 to each of five breakthrough ideas.  Lisa Kennedy, CMO of the program spoke of the impact crowdsourcing can have on disease solutions, citing the protein structuring game    Gamers were able, in ten days, to decipher the structure of a protein called retroviral protease, an enzyme that is key to the way HIV multiplies.  Kennedy pointed out that new crowdfunding models and approaches to health and science innovations are emerging such as Medstartr and Petridish.

Kristin Kuehl is the head of community innovation for Nokia’s IdeasProject – an idea crowdsourcing effort that was initially internal to Nokia, but has moved to include consumers as well.  Not surprisingly their consumers like mobile applications, Keuhl said, with the project also helping Nokia developers get closer to the consumer — staff help refine ideas and bring consumers together at hackathons.   The IdeasProject, launched at SXSW in 2011, provides a platform for ideas and also organizes challenge areas.

Crowdsourcing and Microwork

Both Amazon Mechanical Turk and the Finnish start-up Microtask use a process of parsing out mini-pieces of work to a distributed work force.   Mechanical Turk (MTurk) functions as marketplace/broker between entities that need the service and individuals who sign up as workers to complete what Amazon calls Human Intelligence Tasks (HITS).

With over 500 million products in their catalogue, Amazon also employes Mechanical Turk themselves to rationalize and cleanse their product database, according to Sharon Chiarella, Vice President, Amazon.  Human micro tasks or HITS could include simple tasks like verifying content, identifying objects in photos or decoding catpchas.

Finland-based Microtask focus is on human powered document processing.  CEO Ville Miettinen described their company as bringing human level intelligence to the cloud.  Microtask conducted a joint project with the National Library of Finland to index the library’s archives in order to better enable web search of those resources.  Old newspapers, for instance, were originally printed in an old-fashioned typefont that makes it hard to determine a word’s precise spelling, even when scanned by OCRs.  To help decipher and validate the library’s archives, Microtask created an online game, Digitalkoot and with a voluntary workforce that engaged in the game, completed 5.2 million microtasks in the first 9 months of the project.

In microwork environments, accuracy is verified by task replication — the same task is sent to more than one individual: if there is a difference in the results, the task is then sent to more people to process.

Crowdsourcing, AI and Middle Management

Where is crowdsourcing going?  Crowdcomputing Systems brings AI and crowdsourcing into a business process platform.  In thinking about where this could lead, CEO Max Yankelevich invited his audience to consider the nature of cloud computing in 2006 — largely then a repository for photos, websites — hosting content — but by 2010 the industry was delivering very complex workloads in the cloud.

Crowdsourcing today is often in the realm of simple microtasks, he said, tagging photos, categorizing items.  Yankelevich sees business processes and operations like finance, accounting and marketing as targets.   Crowdcomputing Systems grew out of AI and crowdsourcing projects done at MIT labs, and he left the audience with a provocative thought —

You can never take advantage of cognititive surplus if you have humans in the middle management layer !

Crowdsourcing – Refactoring Work

David Alan Grier, Associate Professor of International Science and Technology Policy and International Affairs at George Washington University, and author of When Computers Were Human, brought the conference crowd some historical perspective on crowdsourcing and technological change.   Crowdsourcing is a means of combining expertise, experience and skill judgement — qualities that produce valued results.

The sessions at the conference highlighted various crowdsourcing forms – innovation, contests and microtasking.   Crowdsourcing extends traditional information processing, stated Grier, by adding judgment to the mix.

Grier suggested some historical examples of types of means of production or coordination of work that earlier had harkened to crowdsourcing.  He noted the case of Reine LaPaute, a French astronomer, who collaborated with two other colleagues to divide the computational workload to determine the next passing of Halley’s Comet in 1757.   William Henry Leffingwell, an early proponent of scientific methods in business practice, wrote about “suggestion systems” in the early part of the 20th century.

As Charles Handy noted in 1989, the expensive part of work processes is in the knowledge of management, and work processes in this highly networked, digital age is undergoing what Grier calls “refactoring.”  Crowdsourcing refactors controls in work, organizational and business processes making them more efficient and flexible.


David Bratvold and the DailyCrowdsource team  put on an interesting and dynamic conference and a great party at the top of the London Hotel in West Hollywood, complete with magnificent sunset.


The Business Value of Application Connectors

There are a number of terms for the approach to collaborative business enabled by the new breed of software tools such as enterprise 2.0 and social business.

Emphasizing connections, McKinsey uses the term, the networked enterprise when they reported on the economic benefits of using what they refer to in 2010 as “collaborative Web 2.0 technologies.”

They found many quantified benefits in 2010 (see The rise of the networked enterprise: Web 2.0 finds its payday) and more in 2011 (see How social technologies are extending the organization). I am sure their next results will show continued growth in benefits in 2012.

For example, in 2010,

  • 77% said the tools increased the speed of access to knowledge,
  • 60% said they reduced communication coats,
  • 52% said they increased speed of access to internal experts,
  • 44% found a reduction in travel costs, and 40% found increased employee satisfaction.

There were similar results in 2011.

A significant foundation for these benefits is connectivity between the rising number of new tools and the established ones. I think another useful term for the new wave of organizational change is the connected enterprise.

Without connections, the benefits are not possible.

I still like to go back to McKinsey’s 2006 paper, The next revolution in interactions, to reflect on two quotes:

In today’s developed economies, the significant nuances in employment concern interactions: the searching, monitoring, and coordinating required to manage the exchange of goods and services.

They said that traditionally the focus of business and IT investments has been on production rather than interactions and added the following.

Social media, with its focus on interactions, is ideal for the new economy based on the connections between these interactions. Six years later, enterprises are now starting to invest in supporting interactions with the new breed of social tools.

Currently, jobs that involve participating in interactions rather than extracting raw materials or making finished goods account for more than 80 percent of all employment in the United States. And jobs involving the most complex type of interactions—those requiring employees to analyze information, grapple with ambiguity, and solve problems—make up the fastest-growing segment.

However, as I wrote in Putting Social Media to Work, to be effective these systems that support interactions have to integrated with the systems of record that support transactions. The social tools also need to be integrated with each other or companies are simply creating more silos of disconnection and benefits are not realized.

Another interesting finding from the 2010 McKinsey study on the networked enterprise was that higher operating margins correlated with the “ability to make decisions lower in the corporate hierarchy and a willingness to allow the formation of working teams comprising both in-house employees and individuals outside the organization.” Connections are again the foundation for these cross-enterprise interactions.

Research from the Altimeter Group (see Social Business Readiness) points to the current need for the technology integration to enable these connections. Altimeter found that many companies have an inability to integrate social data into existing technology systems.

In the companies they looked at, 74% do not have a process in place to support these connections. They struggle with a fragmented technology.

Altimeter states that establishing proper connections is one of steps to becoming an advanced user of social tools. However, this can be a time consuming and costly customer project.

  • What not bypass this effort and bring forward the benefits of the connected enterprise by using out-of-the-box plug-in connectors?
  • Why invest in custom integration efforts to realize the benefits of social business when plug-ins offer a fast and low cost alternative?

Connectors are a major key realizing the business benefits of Enterprise 2.0 and off-the-shelf plug-ins can allow for a major breakthrough in establishing these connections quickly and efficiently.

This is one of the main focuses of this blog. We welcome your input to this conversation.


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

Where AppFusions Fits – Connecting the Enterprise

Before we describe the place of AppFusions in the new world of Enterprise 2.0, it is useful to go back to look at the Enterprise 1.0 world which is still current for many.

Enterprise 1.0 – “A Single System For All”

In the Enterprise 1.0 world, large ERP systems claiming to be  a “single system for all” integrated many (if not all) departments and functions across a company into a single computer system.  They attempted to serve all the different department needs, running the business, successfully in some places, and not so successfully in others. These systems bridged the needs of products, customers, employees, and suppliers. (Below image from this excellent slideshare by Samuel Driessen.)

Credits: Samuel Driessen

For many years, this cross-functional single-uber-system was thought to be the ultimate glue to solve all problems: the silver bullet solution to propel corporations fast forward in their business success.

However, despite best intentions, these lofty goals were hard ones to meet in a single system, given many mixed audiences and purposes between departments.

  • Cross-functionally, departments wanted to control (customize) their workflow.
  • While ERP systems were configurable out of the box – to a point – in most cases, they required costly customization SLAs to develop or configure the workflow exactly how a department wanted it.
  • Data integrations to other systems were extremely expensive ($50K – $200K+), given the reliance on niche technical knowledge in closed systems.
  • All integrations were like “black magic”, requiring ongoing support and vendor reliance without a natural support path.
  • Integrations where time-consuming and costs could be as much five times the software fees.
  • Over time, specialty purpose-driven or “rogue” systems crept into organizations (large or small), as department heads rebelled against the rigid IT uber-system, and shopped for their own systems to meet their department needs.

For the companies that succeeded in their ERP deployments, they paid dearly in implementation costs, yet also they got bigger and faster with these large system infrastructures. For a while, they enjoyed a competitive edge in their locked-down systems.

Credits: Bertrand Duperrin

In such organizations [2], the general top-down management attitude was:

  • this is how it will be,
  • we do not really want to hear your opinion, and,
  • no, you cannot change the process or system (without an enormous amount of additional churn, cost, pain – to which we have no more money to expend).

Employees were forced to adopt the new inflexible systems, a change that often felt like steps back even from their slower, yet functional desktop processes.

Compounded with normal human resistance to change, the new systems were not always warmly received. People had to conform to rigid systems, rather than having flexible systems built around how people worked best.

The enormous level of cross-functional process coordination upfront, as well as the long term support for these systems, was often more crippling than helping. The systems had the potential to control corporate data in a better/faster way than previous manual ways, but it held employees hostage in so many other ways, and caused new problems organizationally.

Politics and internal fights evolved to ever high levels as employees felt duped when the new systems didn’t really do everything that they thought it would, and no customizations were allowed. If a department absolutely required customizations, they’d have to take the heavy cost hit in their departmental budget (not ITs), let alone the time-hit to implement (e.g., another 6 months often, assuming it got done before some other organizational crisis hit).

Companies would endure the growth of excessive politics, mistrust, and infighting causing systematic morale issues and lower productivity. Employee dissatisfaction grew at a higher than normal rate, as well as distrust for management who forced the new monster system on them in the first place (even if it was justified at the time given where technology was at).

In short – it was a vicious and often ugly cycle, especially for large corporations enduring these growing pains.

Outside the Enterprise 1.0 World, the Beginnings of Enterprise 2.0 Technology Moved Forward

Meanwhile, the open source movement had gained “officialness” in 1998 thanks to Netscape (Mozilla), and during the 2000s, the open source trend and collaborative engineering mindset grew more popular with the growth of Linux, further proving the value of both iterative agile engineering, open APIs, rapid development methodologies, and at the communications level – transparent collaboration.

Concurrently, the Internet was taking off well beyond the Silicon Valley, thanks to Yahoo! (1995), Google (1998) going big/global (as well as Microsoft with Internet Explorer). For the Enterprise, early pioneers Jive Software, SocialText, and Atlassian Software were founded in 2001 and 2002, respectively – three corps that would become pioneers in the Enterprise collaboration tools space in the years to come.

Atlassian also would become a leader in many of the open source stirred trends, namely agile development, ALM, engineering tools, and issue tracking, while boldly treading on common industries lead by big heavyweights like IBM, HP, and Microsoft, among others.

Overall – the timing of these new Enterprise collaboration businesses couldn’t have been better, overlapping with early social sites like MySpace (2003), Delicious (2003), Facebook (2004), Digg (2005), Twitter (2006), FriendFeed (2007), and a strong new-way-to-business Millenials culture pushing into industry with all their might.

The collective force was a perfect storm, landing down on a smug and controlling decades old proprietary industry and decades old command-and-control management styles.

By late 2009, open collaboration and social networking was no longer an idle idea.

It was a fast moving trend and way of the future, that had proven the beginnings of enormous business value for getting things done faster in the Enterprise. Concrete data began to emerge on the quantified value of these new approaches (see The Business Value of Application Connectors).

However, to be successful in the new world, people-centered Enterprise 2.0 apps need to connect with the old world transactional-centered Enterprise 1.0 systems. They needed to connect to each other to avoid establishing even more silos within organizations.

While AppFusions does not really believe in the legacy gigantic one-size-fits-all system ideal, at the same time we know that in most cases, these systems are largely not going away.

The new social systems of engagement still need to connect to the old world transaction systems to get work done.

AppFusions Bridges the Gap with Enterprise 2.0 Content Management Integration Connectors

We believe that business information and process management should be handled by a collection of systems that make up a whole. To make this happen, connectivity is the key driver. It is the glue that makes real work happen. It brings the benefits of social systems to work processes.

Modular system architectures in the Enterprise – from the same vendor or many vendors – provide greater flexibility, while also allowing organizations to pick and choose the best-of-breed systems for their purposes.

There are reasons for purpose-built systems, and a collection of many we feel is stronger than a single rigid system, especially if you can connect the strengths (data and workflows) of the different systems with common use case connectors vs. getting on an endless customization path.

Our integration connectors (current and future) bring together workflows, data files, and information between Enterprise systems for your collective purpose-built Enterprise 2.0 corporate solution of many systems. They allow companies to quickly and cost-effectuvely create the needed connectivity without going through the old-world pain of massive, costly, and time consuming integration efforts.

These connectors provide the means to close the gap between old and new, enabling the promise and opportunity within the capabilities of the new people-centered, social systems.

This blog will become the vehicle to tell this story and provide use cases demonstrating the essential nature of connectors.

Post by Ellen Feaheny, CEO of AppFusions

Welcome to the AppFusions Blog – Connecting the Enterprise

We are re-launching and renaming the AppFusions Blog to reflect its expanded focus, Connecting the Enterprise.

This blog will bridge concepts and technologies in both business process areas and agile engineering worlds, which we feel are inextricable. Today in business, software is a part of everything – and you can no longer separate business processes without talking about software, technologies, or engineering.

The blog will discuss Enterprise 2.0 (also called Social Business) integration use cases and the endpoint systems and platforms for which they connect. We are excited about the opportunities that come from connecting enterprise applications (see – The Business Value of Application Connectors).

A significant foundation for the benefits of Enterprise 2.0 is found through establishing connectivity between the rising number of new tools and the established ones. This needs to be done in a flexible and dynamic manner as there is not a single perfect answer for what is the best Enterprise 2.0 system collection.

There are only similarities in topologies of systems, with common needs by all corporations. Keeping a flexible modular IT infrastructure and system architecture is the key to being nimble. Supporting this goal is our aim and AppFusions’ mission:

We will build ready-to-deploy, reasonably priced connectors to solve the most common Enterprise system-to-system data and process integration problems.

Companies must work smarter inside and outside of their organization. From customer input to product management to engineering development to release planning – none of these processes are immune to another. They are all dependent processes, yet they are also all independent too.

Social Business is a runaway train, and we believe that with Social Business comes Social Engineering.
The world is changing fast, with no slow down in sight. Having optimized processes with efficient system to system integrations are more critical than ever.

One objective of the blog is to promote conversations about the value of making application integrations, as well as uncovering new use cases.

Another is to introduce our latest AppFusions moves, as well as offer commentary on the market and relevant events.

While we offer our own AppFusions view and news, this blog is open to the broader discussion of all aspects of application connections and how they can change an organization. We want to hear from you and welcome your comments, stories, and questions.

We encourage you to browse our categories and not just look at our latest content. The categories contain the archives of our past posts. Many of these posts remain useful as we will discuss issues and not simply provide current news. Also use our search field. Often good blog content gets buried as it moves off the front page.

Again, if you like what you find here, please join the conversation through our comment fields.


The AppFusions team!