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The annual Jive conference – JiveWorld 2016 – was all about community. Jive executives and customers consistently used the word “community” to explain the features and use of Jive’s software products. This makes a great deal of sense given the role of community in collaboration. Community means coming together for a purpose and this is the essence of collaboration.

JiveWorld 2016 also exhibited a change in tone, not only for Jive but for other companies in their space. The now ancient term “enterprise social network” was nowhere to be heard. Jivers, as Jive employees call themselves, didn’t even seem to want to say “enterprise chat” for their Slack competitor Jive Chime.

Instead, Jive has positioned itself in the broader collaboration space. This shift in positioning, underway for quite some time under Jive CEO Elisa Steele, recognizes that the old labels are too constraining and confusing. All of Jive’s applications are expressions of the same set of functions, organized for different types of teams and circumstances. To be part of the Jive community (there’s that word again) , is to work with others more efficiently. It is not a specific category of software, so much as a set of activities that software enables. Enterprise social networks were out; Collaboration was in.

CEO Steele began the conference with this community, collaboration focus in mind, stressing three goals for the future of work: embracing diverse workstyle, empowerment and engagement of employees, and customers’ ownership and control of their online experiences. This is a great framework for the emerging collaborative environment that many companies strive for. The only quibble with this vision is that it is less future and more emerging. Perhaps the future is already here.

Announcements

Conferences are where IT vendors make major announcements and JiveWorld 2016 was no exception. Some highlights of the announcements were:

  • Customers are moving to the cloud. Clearly, cloud computing is where Jive (and everyone else) is heading. Jive announced that they had recently moved 36 on-premises customers to their cloud platform. This is significant because these are customers who have to go through the hassle of a migration even though they are clearly happy with their Jive software. Talking to JiveWorld 2016 attendees, it was obvious that customers feel they will see the maximum value in the cloud.
  • Feature toggles allow a go slow approach. Jive pointed out that they have 22 “feature toggles” that allow for more gentle rollouts of Jive’s software. One complaint that many knowledge workers have with various types of collaboration software is that there are too many features to learn all at once. It’s confusing to try and absorb all of those features and, even more so, figure out what they can be used for, By allowing administrators to slowly introduce features, end-users get to acclimate to a few at a time rather than tackling the entire feature set all at once.
  • Jive 9. The next release of Jive’s software which includes Jive-x and Jive-n, the externally and internally focused software, adds features that many customers have been asking about. These include convenience features such as bulk uploads of documents, enhanced analytics for individual end-users and community managers, and connecting the Jive-w mobile applications= – Jive Chime, Jive Circle, and Jive Daily- to a customer’s Jive-n installation. The last feature was an obvious one. Of course you want to access your Jive profiles, news, and messages from these mobile applications! It didn’t work that way from the start because Jive needed to get these out into the wild quickly while restructuring their core platform which brings us to…
  • The shared services platform emerges and is called Workhub. Workhub is the name that Jive has given to the set of services that are shared amongst applications. This provides Jive the capability to connect their different applications together, evolve similar features across all products at the same pace, and create new applications more quickly. Why a customer would care about this or what Jive calls it is unclear. The benefits for the customer will be in Workhub’s expression in the products and, as such, is indirect. Since there was no mention of opening up the Jive platform to developers the way Salesforce.com does with Force.com, giving it a name seems to confuse rather than enlighten.
  • One of the shared services is an identity service. The shared identity service is a big deal for Jive customers. Currently, if someone uses Jive-n for internal collaboration, Jive-x for external communities (or multiple communities), and the Jive-w mobile applications, they have to create separate identities and logins for each. When the new identity service rolls out, end-users will have a single Jive identity and be able to manage how their profiles are expressed in different applications. The identity service, as currently conceived, is a Jive-only service and should not be confused with the authentication and identity services from companies such as Google or Microsoft. Their identity services can be used by third-party developers to provide authentication and profile information to independent applications.
  • People plus IoT is in the Future. There was a couple of mentions of combining Jive with the Internet of Things. It wasn’t clear how that may play out but Jive is at least thinking about how machine messages and human messages will combine in the future. The use cases are there – equipment failure, medical monitoring, etc. – but merging streaming data into human interaction data and have it be meaningful is tricky. Humans are much better than machines at determining when it makes sense to send a message. Simple thresholds almost always provide too many false positives or miss important events. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

What Jive Didn’t Say

Often, at a conference such as this, what is not said is as interesting as what was said. In this case there are two standout silences. First, Jive did not announce that they were opening their platform to developers a la Salesforce.com. Given the new shared services architecture, this is likely a business decision rather than a technical one. Developing the right architecture is only the first step in selling a platform instead of applications. Programs to market the platform, support and documentation for independent developers, proper screening procedures for channel partners, and a viable way to distribute partner applications all have to scale up to accommodate a potentially large number of development partners. Given the relatively small number of Jive partners (relative to say Google, Microsoft, or Salesforce.com) to date it would appear they are not ready for an extensive developer channel and releasing their platform into the ISV ecosystems would be a mistake. This makes the branding of the shared services platform as Workhub even more mysterious.

Jive also did not talk about the identity service as anything but Jive-oriented. This is unfortunate. Cloud -based identity services are an important way to gain easy access across a variety of cloud applications. Most of these, Google and Microsoft especially, mix consumer and enterprise identities into the same service. This leads to multiple identities within the same service, confusing both end-users and software alike. It would be great to see a company such as Jive create an enterprise quality service for enterprise identities that could be used across all types of enterprise cloud systems. There are others, of course, but Jive has an opportunity to create a branded identity service that fits the needs of business and works for many different cloud applications.

Happy Customers

If there was one thing that incredibly evident at JiveWorld 2016, it’s that Jive has happy customers. There weren’t the usual grumblers. Perhaps it’s because of the type of customer they attract – collaborative, community-oriented people – or because their customers just love their software. This is a rare event. Every customer has their fanatics and their haters but it’s rare that there are so few complaints and so much praise. The fans extend well past the “great customers’ they, and every other tech company, parades on the mainstage. And these are not the almost religious customers one sees at Dreamforce, drowning out all the others who have legitimate gripes with Saleforce.com. At JiveWorld 2016, happy people could be found at breakfast, in the halls, in the keynotes, in the elevator, even by the pool.

Nothing says more about a company than when the average wage slave thinks they are great. That’s something you don’t see everyday. A community of committed customers who want to collaborate.