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NewsGator enables collaboration and knowledge sharing inside the enterprise
10 August, 2012 - 08:03
As more companies invest in enterprise social software and big-name acquisitions flood the market, we caught up with NewsGator CEO JB Holston to learn more about his product, how it works and social business trends organizations should look out for.
By Kelly Kass
NewsGator CEO JB Holston gets social with us, explaining the ins and outs of NewsGator and why so many companies are turning to the collaborative tool.
KK: Tell us about NewsGator – how it works, who’s using it, and why?
JBH: “Our primary product is Social Sites. It's tightly integrated with SharePoint which is the ubiquitous enterprise collaboration platform.
Social Sites - now available in a 3.0 version unveiled this week - was designed to take the underlying capabilities of SharePoint and turn it into an enterprise social network an individual would use.
Our clients typically have a billion dollars in revenue or more. We are part of broader enterprise initiatives. Companies partner with us and our partners over an extended period of time on traditional project-based management.
Let’s face it. Enterprise 2.0 is the new world of working. It’s all about organizations turning from a document-centric way of working to being more collaborative and people-centric. It’s what people are doing as consumers, so organizations are looking at how folks interact on Twitter and Facebook. Organizations are realizing that if people are comfortable sharing with each other in an engaging way in consumer networks, they will want to with the organization, too…but on a system driven by corporate objectives rather than Facebook-like objectives which are geared more toward advertising. The communication has to be secure and governable, privacy- appropriate and match what the organization wants to accomplish; rather than just acting as yet another social network.
KK: And why is NewsGator so beneficial as a collaborative social networking tool inside the enterprise?
JBH: “One of the benefits for companies using NewsGator as a collaborative platform is we enable unstructured, quick relations across parts of the organization that were previously siloed. Innovation management is an important use case such as fostering campaigns around ideas and allowing folks to create new proposals and vote on them. Employees can take part in Q&A discussions specific to their project communities. So the system that we provide is more transparent and a quicker interaction model.
When companies use NewsGator as a platform, they can create communities of practice across different functions and geographies. The community manager curates the community for interesting content. Within the community, there is sharing of content and documents such as spreadsheets. Best practices can be shared in real time in a transparent way.
In addition, our clients are motivated by hard cost savings. Companies are looking at how much email volume has declined and whether or not virtual ways of working are cutting down on travel.
KK: Where are you on the mobile scene?
JBH: We have mobile applications for all major operating systems. We're aggressively developing for Windows 8 and are tablet focused. I think you have to have deep coverage of mobile offerings or else you will not be competitive in the market. Enterprise mobile is starting to evolve rapidly so we’re making sure we cover all devices.
KK: What are your plans to integrate Social Sites with Yammer now that Microsoft has acquired it?
JBH: I can discuss this from NewsGator’s perspective. Microsoft is still figuring it all out. The transaction only closed a few weeks ago, and they've indicated that they’re determining how Yammer will become more of a platform for them. Microsoft has always been about platforms and ecosystems around platforms.
We are already working to integrate Yammer, just as we’ve already integrated Salesforce.com’s Chatter tool as well as Microsoft's Dynamics CRM capability.
We’re able to pull interactions from those systems into Social Sites and folks can interact with that content directly via Social Sites. For example, if you are a Chatter and Social Sites customer, you can have sales folks using Chatter. If activity in Chatter is published in Social Sites, someone will see that interaction and respond back. If that conversation shows up in a community of practice, people would see that interaction coming from Chatter and comment back. Social Sites offers a bridge between the two constituencies.
A big benefit of our integration is breaking down silos: all the interactions are stored in the same place. An individual trying to find content only has to worry about a single stored record of interaction. That store is now searchable and governable and manageable at enterprise scale.
KK: What are your feelings about the current state of enterprise social networking – why has it taken off the way it has? Is this the wave of the future for employee communications?
JBH: I think so. The whole definition of an employee is changing radically and it will continue to change more radically. The line between a contractor/employee/alumnus/supplier/customer is changing; the boundaries are fundamentally altering. Enterprise social networking is breaking down barriers between those kinds of traditional definitions and within an employee base in terms of different groups within an organization.
It’s all happening on the consumer front so quickly. Organizations don’t have to get sold on this stuff (unlike with instant messaging and email which didn’t take off on the consumer side first).
KK: What other trends are you seeing in the social business space that companies need to look out for?
JBH: We’ll be seeing large software enterprises make more aggressive moves to get into social business just as Microsoft bought Yammer.
I predict the border between internal and external social business will come down. For example, if you are a product manager in a consumer goods company, you will go through the same single innovation management process internally and externally and not use two different mechanisms to do it. So expect to see this happen in the next two to three years.
This is the year where corporate communications meets employee communications, marketing and HR management. McKinsey published a great study recently stating that the pay off of enabling capabilities for employees internally as what’s done with customers externally has much greater value than simply managing your brand on Facebook.
There’s value in product innovation and crowd sourcing new ideas. And there’s value in being able to answer a question inside a community. One example I love was provided by General Mills at our customer event this past March. The project lead at General Mills told the audience he had five minutes to justify the social business project to his CEO. Instead of going into the meeting with data and statistics about adoption, for example, he shared the story of an employee working at a General Mills plant in England who had a problem pertaining to the production lines. He posed the question in the activity stream. An employee in Milwaukee saw it, knew that someone in South America was working on this issue, and directed it to him. The individual in South America was notified and responded to the inquiry with the appropriate document. Within a day, the problem was solved. Email couldn’t have done that as the person with the problem didn't know the folks in HQ and South America existed or had the right connections and answer. That’s the new way of working: individual, collaborative power has replaced historic work processes.
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