NewsGator Collective 2013: Survival of the Social

In a time when technology vendors are starting to shun the “social” moniker, it was refreshing to hear the messaging at the NewsGator Collective 2013 Annual User Conference that NewsGator is all about “making social real” in the enterprise. 

If you’re not familiar with NewsGator, it is a leading provider of social technologies, delivering its flagship solution, Social Sites, on top of Microsoft SharePoint (an application in use at more than 70% of businesses today). It has more than 4 million users across hundreds of customers, including Kellogg’s, Mars, JP Morgan Chase, American Family Insurance, Comcast, Unisys, Kraft Foods, Overstock.com, Merck and others.

In all, more than 200 customers (including those named above), partners and thought leaders gathered in Denver for this 3-day event, immersing themselves in social business by sharing best practices and research, engaging in live brainstorming sessions, networking, and even engaging in a live hack-a-thon resulting in four coded customer-driven projects slated for delivery with NewsGator’s next release.

President and CEO Daniel Kraft (newly appointed in August 2012), kicked off the event by sharing his view of how human networks have enabled human success and business progress from one era to another. He described the evolution from a “Network of Hands” (the industrial age) to a “Network of Minds” (the knowledge economy) to today’s environment where emotions and passion are unconstrained by physical location and instead are enabled through social technologies (the “Network of Hearts”).

(source: NewsGator)

Kraft believes this evolution demonstrates “survival of the social,” and cautions that, “if you do not buy into it, somebody else will.” The case studies shared during the conference spoke of increased customer retention, improved sales productivity, reduced turnover of high impact employees and more, demonstrating tangible business benefits from social investments. With over $1 trillion potential value to be unlocked annually, including 20-25% increased productivity of high skilled knowledge workers (according to McKinsey Global Institute)1, it’s hard to argue that Kraft is anything but spot-on with his assertion.

Employee Engagement is not just an HR Responsibility

Heads of Marketing, IT, Learning and Collaboration, Communication and other business units led the conversations around motivating and engaging the workforce, identifying high performers and key contributors, ensuring sustainable adoption, and measuring impact and results.

If these sound like the traditional concerns of HR and Human Capital Management (HCM) technologies, you’re right. Yet the number of attendees representing the HR function at this conference was relatively limited.

For me, this was further evidence of two main trends concerning talent management in an era of social connectivity:

1) HR does not own employee engagement.  Driving organizational performance through employee engagement is not simply a concern of the HR organization; leaders from across the enterprise are stepping up to rethink work and how best to drive sustainable results. Increasingly important to achieving better work and talent management results are the “non-HCM” technologies making their way into the enterprise: social tools and collaboration platforms that help people align, connect and get work done every day.

2) HR is not leading social initiatives.  When social technologies are part of the new thinking (as is increasingly the case), HR is more often the supporting player (if not absent altogether) rather than the driving force behind such initiatives. The risk to HR is being sidelined as an administrative or policing function rather than establishing itself as a strategic business partner that both adds to and creates new value for the organization.

With all the evidence that social enablement facilitates engagement and alignment, and that an engaged and aligned workforce has direct, positive effect of business outcomes, why isn’t every company “doing social”?

The answer, according to Catherine Flax, Chief Marketing Officer for JP Morgan Chase’s Wholesale Business, is complex. “It’s an evolutionary process for many companies,” said Flax during a Future of Work panel at the NewsGator Collective. “With the concerns about compliance…it’s easier for companies to say “No” than to say “Yes” to social.” She added that saying “no” is actually a bigger risk than saying “yes,” given the many benefits of a socially-enabled enterprise.

I refer to this risk as the new ROI of Social: the Risk of Ignoring. If social tools are not part of the fabric of the organization, introduced during the hiring and onboarding process and leveraged throughout the work lifecycle as a natural way to get work done, the risk for disengagement, misalignment and reduced productivity are significant. These are concerns for every leader in the organization, not just HR.

My POV:

Last year, Microsoft dealt NewsGator a one-two punch when it announced its latest release, SharePoint 2013, would deliver social capabilities, followed by its acquisition of Yammer, an enterprise social technology vendor. However, NewsGator has not just rallied but thrived since those announcements. It reported more than 100 new customers in 2012 and many new product innovations including Social Site’s dual compatibility with both SharePoint 2010 and 2013 from a single code base; a new user interfaced dubbed “Lookout”; support for social learning use cases through its new application, NewsGator Enrich; broader analytics capability through its Webtrends partnership; advanced mobile capabilities and more.

NewsGator has also recently announced that it is rearchitecting its Social Sites suite, eliminating its dependency on Microsoft SharePoint and becoming platform agnostic.  This will put NewsGator more squarely in the crosshairs of enterprise social networking (ESN) competitors of all sizes including Jive, IBM, Huddle, Igloo and tens of others.  Its differentiation will come through a vertical focus on specific businsess-driven use cases.  In fact at this month’s Collective conference, NewsGator announced the development of several of these use-case driven applications to drive tangible business results, centered on Corporate Communications, Field Enablement and Innovation.  Development of these and additional use cases will advance its competitiveness in the ESN market beyond SharePoint-based solutions.

Additional investment in analytics beyond usage and adoption would be a welcome investment from NewsGator as well, as companies are increasingly challenged to communicate the impact of their social investments.  At Constellation Research, we are seeing a trend away from traditional technology RFPs to increased scrutiny on business outcomes. More and more companies are reporting real business results with social technologies, and the question of “social” in business is moving from “if” to “when and how”.

Current and prospective NewsGator clients will benefit from its continued investments in social use case innovations, continued integration to the Microsoft stack as well as integration beyond the Microsoft apps to SAP, Salesforce.com Chatter and others. Clients will also benefit from NewsGator’s new Adoption Framework, a methodology focused on helping organizations achieve better results at the intersection of people engagement, business alignment and technology enablement. For many organizations, making SharePoint “work” is a top priority, and in this endeavor, NewsGator currently has the lead position for both cloud and on-premises SharePoint customers (an important fact since Microsoft has announced it will not integrate Yammer to on-premises SharePoint beyond basic connectivity). For companies not betting their enterprise collaboration futures on Microsoft, NewsGator’s move to a platform-agnostic solution and its continued build-out of social applications for targeted use cases will make it a viable alternative as well.

The path to enterprise social collaboration may come from a single technology platform, like NewsGator, or through an aggregation of social-enabled technologies (for example, integrations of social-enabled tools across HCM, CRM and core communications). Either way, making social real in the enterprise – helping organizations unlock the untapped potential of a humanistic approach to business both within and across an enterprise – is a business imperative.

Your POV

What do you think?  Has your company embraced  the concept of “Survival of the Social” or are you still evaluating the business case for social investments? Are you a NewsGator customer with stories to share? Add your comments to the blog or send us a comment at Y (at) ConstellationRG (dot) com.

Please let us know if you need help with your Social Business efforts. Sign up for a Constellation Academy Workshop or let us assist with:

  • Assessing social business readiness
  • Developing your social business engagement strategy
  • Creating a new vision for the future of work
  • Vendor selection
  • Connecting with other pioneers

Note: NewsGator is a client of Constellation Research.

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1 “The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies.” McKinsey Global Institute, July 2012.

News Analysis: Infor Adds SaaS LMS with Acquisition of CERTPOINT

Proving it has not lost its appetite for acquisitions, on March 4th, 2013, Infor announced its planned acquisition of New York based CERTPOINT Systems, Inc., a SaaS provider of global learning management software (LMS) and learning content management software (LCMS).

CERTPOINT backgroundinforcertpoint

Founded in 1996, CERTPOINT (formerly Vuepoint) offers comprehensive learning solutions including LMS, LCMS, content authoring, competency management, integrated web conferencing, mobile access and social learning to more than 1300 clients across more than 80 countries.  Marquis customers include Toyota, Honda, Motorola, Ralph Lauren, LANCOME and Weightwatchers. Like Infor, it boasts a hybrid offering, delivering on-premises, hosted and SaaS-based offerings; the majority of its clients, however, utilize the SaaS applications, consistent with adoption trends in the human capital management (HCM) market.  CERTPOINT also provides consulting services including content development, implementation and strategic consulting.  It currently employs approximately 50 staff, most based in New York.

The acquisition expands two key areas for Infor:

  • With the CERTPOINT acquisition, the Infor Human Capital Management (HCM) suite delivers a comprehensive end-to-end offering. Tarik Taman, the GM of Infor HCM, noted that, “The acquisition of CERTPOINT will enable Infor to offer customers an end-to-end HCM solution, delivered to help maximize access and business insight and achieve breakthrough performance. In addition to complementary functionality, the acquisition of CERTPOINT sends the signal that Infor intends to be atop the leaderboard of SaaS Enterprise Human Capital Management solution providers.”
  • Point of View (POV): As Infor continues to move its HCM suite of products fully to the cloud (watch for their announcements in this area in the Summer of 2013), the acquisition of SaaS-based CERTPOINT completes the suite with solid LMS capabilities. And in today’s global, virtual and mobile work environments, CERTPOINT’s delivery of personalized electronic content to mobile devices is precisely the type of capability required for business performance.  Integration via Infor’s technology framework, Infor ION, will focus on the HCM products (Lawson HRM, Talent Management and Service Delivery), but will also extend to other Infor solutions to meet strategic opportunities. WebEx Communications is the current partner to CERTPOINT for delivering integrated web training and conferencing; Infor does not currently have a competing offering but I expect this to be an area of development for the Infor ION team in the future. From an end-to-end perspective, Infor is one of the few providers of HR Service Delivery (having acquired this from Lawson/Enwisen in 2011).  The Infor Enwisen platform has served as a unifying solution across all Infor Lawson HCM products, delivering portal, knowledgebase and multi-tiered support across the suite. Integration with Enwisen will bring rapid value-add to CERTPOINT customers.

  • CERTPOINT fortifies Infor Healthcare solutions with critical learning capabilities. Certification and compliance training are mission critical activities in the healthcare industry.  Combined with the verticalized solution for Healthcare from Infor HCM, clients will be able to move beyond certification and compliance to the creation of high performing healthcare organizations.
  • Point of View (POV):  Infor gained a major presence in Healthcare with the acquisition of Lawson software in 2011, and so CERTPOINT’s Healthcare industry solution is a natural launch point for showcasing the combined offering. Infor has, in fact has already begun this push, as it positions richer capabilities for the Healthcare industry as well as increased thought leadership with the hiring of a Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) to oversee the Infor Healthcare suite. Other industries such as Automotive, Food & Hospitality and Manufacturing  will be early solution targets as well. One of Infor’s points of differentiation is its micro-vertical strategy: beyond the standard 21 or so industry vertical classifications, Infor recognizes the unique needs coming from more than 2000 micro-verticals within these broader industries. CERTPOINT clients will benefit over time from Infor’s micro-vertical focus as this specialized knowledge infuses and expands the capabilities of its nine current vertical offerings.

Bottom Line:  Infor Advances its Move to the Cloud

Today,  Infor is the third largest provider of enterprise applications and services, with a valuation of $16B and five consecutive quarters of double-digit license revenue growth. It doesn’t just compete with Oracle and SAP, however; it increasingly competes with the likes of Workday and Ultimate as clients look to the cloud for Enterprise HCM.  The acquisition of CERTPOINT not only completes the Infor HCM suite, it does so through a SaaS offering that enables rapid, low cost deployment and frequent innovations in a business-critical area.  Additionally, CERTPOINT provides support for the extended enterprise – training for partners, suppliers and customers – including eCommerce capabilities for companies that deliver training for profit. With Infor Ming.le, Infor’s social platform still in development, CERTPOINT’s social learning will also be a welcome and timely addition to the Infor HCM suite.

As always, the devil is in the details, but given that CERTPOINT today integrates with many HCM solutions (including its strategic partner, Ultimate Software), the initial phase of the Infor/CERTPOINT integration should come to market quickly, with more strategic points of leverage following in subsequent iterations.  Infor clients will benefit from this acquisition through the additional depth of learning capabilities; CERTPOINT clients will have a new, integrated path to consider as they evaluate the upgrade or replacement of their current HCM infrastructures.

Related posts:

Event Report: #InforSummit Reveals More Than a Redesigned Infor

Seven Ways Infor is Advancing HCM (Hint: Lawson is but One)

Cornerstone for Salesforce: Optimizing CRM Investment

Since 2009, a small, independently operated but wholly owned subsidiary of Cornerstone OnDemand has been developing and delivering cloud-based LMS capabilities built natively on the Force.com platform (Salesforce.com’s platform for building enterprise applications).  Operating under the name “CyberU”, the solution went live on the AppExchange in October 2010, and now claims more than 70 clients including Marketo, LinkedIn, Virgin America, Box, and Salesforce.com which itself uses CyberU to deliver and track training for all internal and external users (the “extended enterprise”) globally.

Today, Cornerstone OnDemand announced the availability of “Cornerstone for Salesforce”, effectively rebranding CyberU and reinforcing its commitment to bringing learning and training directly into the business applications used by employees, partners and customers every day.

Cornerstone for Salesforce – a different focus

Where Cornerstone OnDemand has been focusing on enriching the capabilities and value proposition its talent suite (spanning the Recruiting Cloud, Learning Cloud, Performance Cloud and Extended Enterprise Cloud), the Cornerstone for Salesforce solution focuses on enriching the daily interactions taking place within the Salesforce applications with embedded training and development.

Bringing business intelligence, social and transactional support into enterprise business applications (like CRM, Financials, Manufacturing and others) reflects the trend toward more “purposeful applications”; a focus on “getting work done” more intuitively and effectively. The capabilities of Cornerstone for Salesforce reflect common learning management requirements, but the design intent is to have the LMS enable training and learning at the point where it is needed – i.e., while supporting a customer or while managing a sales opportunity – instead of having the LMS be “place you need to go for learning’’.

The Cornerstone for Salesforce capabilities include:

  • eLearning, including instructor-led and virtual learning support;
  • Certification and compliance for sales teams, employees, partners and customers;
  • Individual and team development planning;
  • Just-in-time training (training recommendations triggered from actions within the Salesforce application, such as changes in opportunity status, or when a new product is assigned to a sales or services team member);
  • Individual and manager dashboard reporting and analytics;
  • Social learning via integration with Salesforce Chatter;
  • Embedded performance development and training through integration with Salesforce Work.com;
  • A unified user experience and common reporting and analytics engine across the Salesforce platform; and
  • Immediate integration with thousands of Salesforce AppExchange partners including hundreds offering support for eCommerce, surveys, assessments, and quizzes.

cornerstone for salesforce
In addition to the capabilities mentioned above, consider also the extensibility of the Cornerstone platform. Unlike the packaged service offerings of yesterday’s legacy software (where custom development is repurposed to other clients through a pre-packaged consulting engagements), SaaS providers like Cornerstone can develop custom code for clients – or provide the development platform for clients’ own use – and enable other clients to access these innovations through a downloadable library of solution extensions. SaaS by its nature accelerates the pace of innovation; an extensible platform amplifies that acceleration even more.  Not every SaaS vendor takes this approach today, but Cornerstone has been supporting this for years. Cornerstone for Salesforce  empowers its partners and customers with an extensible LMS platform.

My POV

The launch of Cornerstone for Salesforce  is an important move for Cornerstone as more and more organizations look to the AppExchange and natively developed Force.com applications to extend their Salesforce.com investment.

Today Cornerstone supports three distinct platform offerings:  Cornerstone OnDemand, Cornerstone for Salesforce, and CSB (formerly Sonar6).  Rather than being distractions, I expect each offering will inform the other with best practices and lessons learned.  (We’ve seen this already, as the innovative “helicopter review” from the CSB solution is making its way into the Cornerstone Performance Cloud; and the domain expertise from the Cornerstone Learning cloud heavily influenced initial Cornerstone for Salesforce capabilities).

The Cornerstone OnDemand suite and CSB solution will continue to be important options for buyers in the HCM marketplace.  For Salesforce.com customers, a new option has emerged.

Cornerstone for Salesforce is a market-tested solution, with large clients (such as Salesforce.com) relying upon it today for learning and training across their extended enterprise.  Cornerstone for Salesforce should be on the shortlist of any Salesforce customer seeking intuitive, contextual learning and development support for its employees, partners and customers.

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