HighQ Raises $50M To Continue Growth In Social Business Market

January 27 2016 10:18:52 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

There was some big news today in the highly competitive enterprise social business market. By big, I mean $50 million big: 
HighQ completes $50 million growth financing round from One Peak Partners, Morgan Stanley Merchant Banking and Goldman Sachs Private Capital

You may not be familiar with London, UK based HighQ, but they are a leading vendor of collaboration software in the legal and financial services industries. With the money from today's funding round, they hope to expand their presence in North America and into several other industries.

Some of the strengths of the HighQ are:

  • Seamless integration of social networking, content creation (blogs and wikis), tasks, events and file sharing
  • Extremely granular permissions/security model including viewing, editing, printing, saving, even watermarking
  • iSheets, which is an online spreadsheet/database tool that enables people to easily create applications with structured, or organized data. So rather than just putting information into a document or wiki, you can create records, sort, filter, run reports, etc.
  • Very clean, modern design
  • Private messaging/chat

Areas I'd like to see HighQ improve:

  • Real time communication, including video chats/conferences and screensharing
  • Analytics to help both users and administrations gain insight into the content and conversations
  • Developer ecosystem for business add-ons and extensions
  • Deeper enterprise software integrations with products like Microsoft Office, Salesforce, ZenDesk, Workday, etc. 

To get a quick overview of one of their three products, HighQ Collaborate watch the following video. 


By the way all vendors should take note, this is how a product video should be done. It explains a problem and how HighQ solves it, shows the actual product (not just a fake animation), and it is just a few minutes long.  Well done.


HighQ is a Constellation Research customer. I look forward to continuing to advise them as they improve their platform and expand their customer base.  Congratulations on today's news, it is well deserved.





IBM Connect 2016 - A New Hope Awakens

January 26 2016 05:03:31 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

Next week IBM is holding their annual conference focused on collaboration software. However, this year things are going to be a bit different.

The conference’s roots date back to the early 1990s in what was originally called Lotusphere. That event focused on products like Lotus Notes/Domino, Sametime, Quickplace and others. Over the years as IBM evolved their collaboration portfolio the conference added sessions around the more “IBMish” technologies like WebSphere Portal and DB2. These additions did not resonate well with the faithful Lotus customers and business partners. In 2013 the event was renamed IBM Connect and added the IBM Kenexa portfolio of Human Resource and Learning Management products (which they combine under the term, Smarter Workforce). This change was also not met with universal acceptance. With market momentum shifting away from IBM to competitors like Microsoft, Google and Salesforce, many people believed that last year (2015) would be the final incarnation of the conference. The event was much smaller than previous years (down from several hotels to just one), but to the joy of the faithful, was much more focused on the core collaboration technologies that customers and partners wanted to hear about. Due to the success of the 2015 event, IBM Connect is back for 2016, but for the first time in 20 years will not be held at the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin resort, instead taking place at the Orlando Hilton. 

In my opinion, the change is a good thing. It’s time to break the ties to the past. It’s time for a reboot. With that in mind, here are the main areas I’d like to hear about at IBM Connect 2016:

Vision - First and foremost, I want to sit in the audience and pretend I have no previous knowledge and see if I leave with a clear understanding of how IBM helps personal productivity and team collaboration (both internal and external). I want to hear how the IBM collaboration tools fit into the larger IBM vision, not just how other parts of IBM (like Watson and BlueMix) are helping collaboration. How does collaboration fit into cognitive computing? How does collaboration fit into application development? Not the other way around. Microsoft has made their vision clear, "Reinvent productivity and business process in this mobile-first, cloud-first world”. I’d like to see something like that from IBM.

UPDATE: I know IBM's company vision revolves around the Cognitive-era, so I expect we'll be hearing a lot about this at Connect.  I'd previously mentioned on Twitter that to make the keynote more fun, we should all take a shot each time IBM says Cognitive. :-)

Customers - I want to hear new customer references. Big ones. Name brands. Not upgrades. New customers. Nothing proves success like customers.

Business Partners - One of the keys to Microsoft, Google, Salesforce and even Slack’s success is size and momentum of their business partner ecosystems. These vendors have a large number of companies building add-ons and integrations for their tools. Those vendors each have robust application catalogs/stores/marketplaces that enable people to extend their products with a few simple clicks (and maybe a credit card). In almost every product briefing I am in new products support “Exchange and Gmail” or “work with Office365”, but I very rarely hear IBM mentioned. I’d like to learn if IBM Verse and/or Connections has made any progress in these areas.

Platform - Similar to the point above about add-ons, what is IBM doing to help developers build stand-alone collaborative applications? The IBM application platform is BlueMix, I hope to leave with a good understanding of how developers use it to build collaborative applications. Vice versa, what components of IBM collaboration can be embedded into other applications? What incentive do developers have to build on IBM technologies versus Salesforce1, AWS, Azure, etc?

Investments - IBM’s largest investments these days are around data and analytics. Their various acquisitions and partnerships with companies like Twitter (which they should buy now since the stock is so low), The Weather Company, and Box are all part of a strategy to get their hands (well algorithms) on as much data as possible. That data is then fed into IBM Watson to hopefully derive insights which can help improve business outcomes. I’d like to see IBM show similar commitment to analyzing the vast amounts of employee interactions that take place in email, calendar, contacts, social networking, etc. Google (with Google Now), Microsoft (with Delve Organization Analytics), and Salesforce (with SalesforceIQ) are far ahead of IBM in these areas. Microsoft is on a productivity/collaboration buying spree lately, having acquired Accompli, LiveLoop, Sunrise, Wanderlust, VoloMetrix, MileIQ and most recently Talko. I’d like to see IBM show some sign of investment in collaboration.

Business Outcomes - One of the strengths that SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft and Infor have is that their social tools are deeply integrated with their business process software (such as CRM, HR, ERP, Finance, Legal, etc). IBM has done a good job integrating social into Kenexa, but what are they doing in the other areas? How does IBM’s collaboration software help a sales team close a deal or a supply chain discuss a shipment? Will IBM be partnering in any of these areas? Acquiring? Building? Will IBM provide any templates for specific business processes and/or integrations? Similarly, what about industry verticals? IBM has always had strong sales/services around verticals, so how about having tailored collaboration offerings for healthcare, manufacturing, energy, media, etc.?

Innovation - When I think back over the last decade or so of the tours I've had of IBM Research's Innovation Labs, I can’t think of anything that has made it into shipping software, or even into the hands of the public to look at. Microsoft on the other hand releases new “garage" products all the time. Microsoft is also rapidly adding new products such as Delve, Sway, Planner (beta) and GigJam (beta) that truly change the way people work. IBM Verse has done a nice job at integrating frequent contacts, email and calendar on a single screen, but it’s time to do more than just make a better email client. I’d like to see IBM redefine the way we create content, share information, connect with colleagues/prospects, plan/attend meetings, organize and execute projects, etc. I’ve not seen any improvement in calendar nor IBM Activities in many years. That needs to change. For more on this topic, see my report: Collaboration Vendors Shaping the Future of Work

Marketing - Is IBM still going to push “A New Way To Work”? I’ve been pretty vocal with my dislike for this phrase, as I’ve not yet seen anything from IBM that really changes the way people work. They have improved email (which is a good thing) but I have yet to see how they change the way employees do their jobs. This is tie d into innovation above. I also don't like the conference theme "Make every moment count". That seems like the type of thing you say when you're worried about the future. Perhaps I'll change my mind when I see how it is used at the show.

Let's Get Personal - Let’s stop wishing IBM would have a consumer play. IBM is not good at consumer offerings. They do not have a web search engine, map/navigation, news, social network or file/photo sharing service that people use in their personal lives. They failed miserably at trying to provide a public version of Verse for email. It’s time to lay this hope to rest. The B in IBM is business, they should focus there.


UPDATE - I didn't mention IoT.  I wonder what role IBM sees IoT playing in the future of collaboration.

Moving On

Let’s all go into this event with an open mind, and accept that the days of Lotusphere are over. The show is going to be smaller than in the past. It will be more like a customer conference, not an industry event. That’s ok, IBM needs to keep their current clients happy, but I don’t think a lot of new client prospects will be in attendance. Also let’s try and not put too much focus on personnel changes. Yes of course they matter, but they are not telltale signs of the apocalypse. I look forward to this new rebooted IBM Connect. I believe it will pay homage to the past, while forcing an awakening for the future. I hope IBM addresses the things I’ve mentioned above. Finally, I hope to see you there.


Feedback Please

Are there areas I’ve missed? Are there things you disagree with? Do my thoughts echo your own? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.


Salesforce AppExchange Celebrates 10 Years of Platform Success

January 13 2016 03:48:12 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

On January 14, 2016 the Salesforce AppExchange turned 10 years old.  That makes it more than 2 years older than the iPhone App Store, which opened on July 10, 2008!  For those of you unfamiliar with the AppExchange, it's a catalog of applications built by Salesforce partners that enables customers to add functionality to their use of Salesforce. Do you want to add Human Resources (HR), Supply Chain (ERP), or financial features? There's an app (well dozens) for that. On the collaboration side, do you want to add web-conferencing or task management? There's an app for that.

When choosing a vendor, one of the most important things to consider is how vibrant the company's business partner ecosystem is. The more partners a company has, the more features and functionality will be available. A flourishing partner ecosystem shows that developers have faith that the platform is a leader, and someone they want to invest their time and money on. With close to 3000 apps now available for Salesforce, it's quite clear that 3rd party developers feel confident Salesforce is a company they need to build products for.

To get started building applications for Salesforce, visit their developer site named Trailhead for documentation and tutorials.

The Salesforce AppExchange created the model that several other software companies have strived to emulate. Collaboration vendors such as BoxClarizen, Google AppsMicrosoft OfficePodio and Slack now offer integrated catalogs of their own.



Here is an infographic that Salesforce created to highlight some key milestones.

Salesforce 2016: Intelligence, Analytics and IOT

January 8 2016 01:40:08 PM Add/Read Comments [0]

Earlier this week Salesforce held their 2016 Analyst Summit. At this event, they shared information about their product and marketing plans, we heard customer stories, and we were able to ask questions to several top executives. In the video below I provide an overview of the Salesforce product portfolio, explain some of the terminology they use (ex: Lightning, Thunder, Wave, Salesforce1), and highlight some of their strengths in the collaboration market. 


While not covered in the video, there are areas I would like to see Salesforce improve in their collaboration portfolio, such as:

  • Better project/task management
  • Real-time communication (1:1 or group video chat)
  • Long form content creation (i.e. notes/documents that are longer than Chatter posts)

I asked about each of these, and while I am not able to disclose Salesforce's replies, I can tell you they are aware of each of these shortcomings. In some cases these areas will be addressed by Salesforce building new features, some by product acquisition and some things will be solved by integration with partner products.

I look forward to seeing Salesforce's progress in 2016 around personal productivity, team collaboration and customer engagement. I'll be keeping a close watch on how they leverage intelligence (AI), analytics, and the Internet of Things (IOT) to improve each of these areas.







Slack Advances Their Efforts To Evolve From Product To Platform

December 16 2015 10:30:40 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

Today Slack made 3 announcements that help advance their efforts to evolve from just being a product to being a platform. This is very important, as you've heard me say over and over again, one of the key's to the success of any vendor is the strength of its partner ecosystem. The announcements are:

1. The Slack Fund, "a new $80 million dollar fund backed by Slack and six of our investors: Accel, Andreessen-Horowitz, Index Ventures, KPCB, Spark, and Social+Capital"

MyPOV:  Developers have several options in the social business market. Should they spend their time building for Office365, Google for Work, Jive, Salesforce, etc? This fund should help motive developers to build applications and extensions that interact with Slack.

2. Botkit, "a new framework for Slack development that greatly simplifies the creation of apps (especially bots) with a flexible codebase that handles things like authenticating apps to a team and the sending, receiving, and processing of messages with our API"

MyPOV: This new framework should help developers who have been attracted by announcement #1 get started quickly. Removing the need to code the backend processes allows developers to focus on the business workflows of the applications.

3. New an improved Application Directory, "where you can find over 160 apps that can extend the capabilities of your Slack team" 

MyPOV: Announcement #1 provides the incentive to build applications, announcement #2 helps developers do it, #3 is all about easily surfacing those new applications. The vast amount and variety of integrations available for Slack have been one its primary keys to success. Until now installing those integrations required a few steps and may have been too technical for some people. The new directory makes adding functionality to your Slack channels much easier, which will help drive adoption.

Here is a short video where I discuss today's news:



Are you currently using Slack? Are you planning to? Are you a developer building for Slack? Are you planning to?

I look forward to your feedback.

IBM Announces IBM Connections 5.5 and IBM Docs 2.0

December 16 2015 09:31:00 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

IBM has announced the latest versions IBM Connections and IBM Docs. These new versions are for on-premises customers who have not yet made the move to IBM Smart Cloud. While these are not innovative new releases, the do allow on-premises customers to catch-up on the features which IBM has been rolling out this year to their cloud-based offerings.




Collaboration Suites versus Best of Breed Solutions

December 15 2015 08:24:37 AM Add/Read Comments [0]

“Should we use a group of products from a single vendor or purchase different features from multiple specialized vendors?”

This question, otherwise known as “suites versus best-of-breed”, is one of the oldest and most important that IT decision makers have to answer. But is the question still valid? Suites are no longer proprietary offerings with long development cycles, but rather open and extensible platforms which are frequently updated. Best-of-breed vendors can still fill niche gaps, but their unique features can quickly be commoditized. Thus, a more accurate question would now be “which platform should we be looking at, and are there niche products that we should integrate into it?”

The purpose of this report is to show how collaboration platforms provide a more seamless and secure user experience, while reducing costs and administrative complexities from piecing together multiple tools. This report covers two important topics:

  • How vendors are releasing software in much shorter cycles than before
  • The advantages of platforms over best-of-breed solutions

Click here for more details about the report and to purchase/download a full copy.

The following video provides a brief overview of the report.

Here is the Table of Contents:

  • How the Innovation Life Cycle Hastens the Shift from Differentiation to Commoditization.
  • Evolution of the Employee Collaboration Portfolio.
  • Silos of Collaboration Hinder Ability to Effectively Get Work Done.
  • Why Collaboration Platforms Trump Standalone Solutions.
  • When Standalone Products Make Sense.
  • Capturing the Best of Both Worlds.
  • Vendors Approach Collaboration Platforms from Different Angles.
  • Conclusion: Preparing for the Next Wave of Innovation.


I look forward to your feedback.

Click here for more details about the report and to purchase/download a full copy.