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,, 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.


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, 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.


“Ok, Now You’ve Scared Me.”

CarnacA few weeks ago, I participated in a virtual panel focused on “The Future of Work”, providing my views into the changing landscape of work, not just as we enter 2013, but looking further out to 3, 5 or even 10 years from now. The discussion, sponsored by Cornerstone OnDemand, is available here for playback.

I began the session by sharing my view that the future of work, first and foremost, is already here. Organizations have long been affected by and responding to the dramatic changes coming from disruptive technologies, rapidly shifting worker demographics and dynamics, and new competitive pressures from an especially dynamic business climate. The challenges are real and taking place today. Looking to the future of work, one could sum up the anticipated impacts in a single word: More. More intensity. More pressure. More change. More risk. But also, more opportunity. More engagement. More transparency. More impact.

This “more” concept translates to a change in all aspects of work: namely, the Who, Where, When, What, How and even Why of work needs to be rethought:

  • The “who” of work: Who are your workers?  What generation do they represent? Are they employees or free agents? What is the composition of your workforce from a diversity perspective and how are practices in attracting, engaging, motivating, developing, measuring and rewarding the workforce evolving?
  • The “where” and “when” of work: Work takes place at the office, at home, on the go; in connected or disconnected modes from laptops, tablets, smartphones and desktops; face-to-face with our local colleagues or virtually across the globe; in shared coworking spaces where our cubicle neighbor may not even work for the same company. What systems are we using to ensure access to the people and information necessary to get work done? To drive engagement and crank up innovation?  In today’s business climate, are we fostering results from any place, at any time, from any device, or constraining people and results with a traditional mindset to work?
  • The “what” and “how” of work: The very nature of work is changing as the lines between employees, customers and suppliers blur and technology transforms work to more interaction-based engagements.  Big data insights and predictive analytics provide new views of influence and impact while social network analysis helps us understand the flow of knowledge in the enterprise and how work is getting done.  We’re just scratching the surface on better insights into the what and how of work in today’s social enterprise; what role will HR play in this new world of big data?
  • The “why” of work: Motivations differ by generation and by individual; they span pay and benefits, career advancement, skill development, recognition and increasingly,  social responsibility and altruism.  Are the rewards and recognition systems used in corporations today resonating with these very diverse workforce motivations? Do our company cultures sustain the drivers of the emerging workforce?

I riffed a bit on the sweeping changes required in business due to the above and received my favorite response of the hour from Cornerstone’s VP of Corporate Development and Strategy, Jason Corsello.  His comment?

Ok, now you’ve scared me.”

Jason is wicked smart. And he is anything but ‘scared’ about the future of work, as he and his colleagues work to guide Cornerstone’s strategy and disrupt the legacy market with cloud, social and mobile technologies. But his off-the-cuff comment was a good one, highlighting that despite all the advances we’ve made in processes and technology, there is still much more to do; more to plan for, to learn from, to capitalize on,  to embrace.


Are you ready for the future of work?

Read a summary of the full panel discussion or listen to the event directly.  Be sure to catch the latest research on the Future of Work, Consumerization of IT and the New C-Suite, and other critical business themes at Constellation Research, Inc..

Disclosure: Cornerstone OnDemand is a client of Constellation Research, Inc.

The Answer is Talent Mobility. Now, What’s Your Question?

If there were a secret sauce to organizational success, then you would find “Effective Talent Mobility Program” as one of its first ingredients.

From addressing the top concerns of CEOs to the daily challenges of line of business leaders and the concerns of individual employees – an effective talent mobility strategy can have significant positive results at all levels, and on the business as a whole.

What is Talent Mobility?

Fundamentally, talent mobility is about the movement of talent across the organization (across projects, roles, teams, divisions, locations, etc.).  Based on the driving party, these workforce initiatives are typically called succession planning (employer-initiated) or career planning (employee initiated), but at the end of the day it all comes down to the readiness for and actual movement of talent in the enterprise.

When I refer to talent mobility as part of the “secret sauce”, I’m not talking about  yesterday’s strategies – where succession plans are based on senior job titles;  where “internal recruiting” means a job is posted internally for five days and then routed to the external job sites; or an employee seeking career growth is handed a listing of the next three job titles up the ladder and the associated required training and tenure for each role.

Instead, I’m talking about talent mobility for the future of work  – what works in an environment where five generations are converging on the enterprise but bringing divergent perspectives on work, rewards and motivation; where hierarchies give way to networks, and influence is the new social currency; where virtual teams and mobile devices drive expectations for an always-on, always-connected, always-informed experience.

What’s The Risk?

You can hardly view a blog, tweet or magazine article without hearing the extent to which employees are disengaged, mistrustful of leadership, and open to being poached by competitors. Consider the following stats:

  • At any given time, more than 2/3rds of a company’s workforce is disengaged1 – workers are essentially sleepwalking on the job.
  • 65% of employees are looking – either actively or passively – to leave their organization.2
  • Only 18% of Millennials expect to remain in their current job for the long term;3 37% say they do not trust “big business” (read this one as “we’re recruiting challenges for big firms!”)

Improving employee engagement is paramount, as study after study correlates improved engagement with improved retention, productivity and business outcomes such as customer satisfaction, profitability and brand.  According to the Corporate Leadership Board4,

Employees most committed to their organizations put forth 57 percent more effort and are 87 percent less likely to leave their company than employees who consider themselves disengaged.

By incorporating a few key design tenets into their talent mobility strategies, organizations can propel engagement and bottom line results across the organization.

Five Tenets for Effective Talent Mobility

  1. Focus on people, not titles.  Succession plans focused on replacements for certain titles and roles fail to account for the valuable hidden talent of the organization.  Such an  approach also fails to plan for the departure of critical employees who, despite being in individual contributor roles or holding nominal titles, nonetheless serve pivotal roles in greasing the wheels of success in the organization.  Uncovering your hidden talent is possible when social tools are part of the enabling technology of your mobility programs:  expanded profiles allow for greater talent insight, while social network analysis can uncover critical connections and impacts previously undetected.
  2. Eschew the corporate ladder; embrace the corporate lattice.  The latest generation of worker is less motivated by factors such as pay and job titles, and more by recognition, engagement at senior levels, and the ability to work on projects of high interest. However, lateral or even downward moves in the organization may be required to access these opportunities.  If your company culture only values upward mobility, then your development, retention and mobility strategies can have limited results at best.  Embracing and celebrating moves anywhere along the corporate lattice will foster corporate agility while engendering improved trust and motivation from individuals. (Note: embracing the lattice also means embracing the actual movement of talent…an increased volume in transfers and cross-team assignments, or some level of ambiguity around corporate hierarchies, will be standard in such a culture.)
  3. Broaden the focus beyond “jobs” to include “opportunities”.  Expanding one’s skills and experiences should not always require an official job change.  Temporary project assignments, virtual teams assembled for a defined period of time, dynamic org structures that constantly reform around strategic initiatives: these are the emerging realities of workplace structures in the future of work.  Beyond support for managing job openings, tools are emerging that enable users to share these more project-based initiatives across the enterprise social network.  Instead of staffing ad-hoc or short-term projects with the same resources again and again, extend visibility of the opportunities across the enterprise, creating new options for employees and improving communication, transparency, trust and engagement.
  4. Incorporate mentorship and coaching. Process-wise this is a no-brainer, but many organizations still do not officially support mentor/coaching programs as part of talent mobility programs.   Today’s technologies support mentor and coaching relationships that range from highly informal and unstructured conversations to richly choreographed relationships with milestones, tracking, reviews and more.  The use of social technologies makes finding and connecting to mentors or coaches easier than ever before, and matching algorithms in the technology can further automate the mentor/mentee connection process, refining its calculations over time.
  5. Give employees the tools they need to drive their own success. With today’s technologies, talent mobility does not have to remain a top-down process managed in complex systems.  Today’s social-infused tools foster employee engagement throughout the mobility program; recommendations of potential job or opportunity matches (for “passive” internal candidates) are delivered to employees’ devices of choice; individuals can scan or search across opportunities, engaging in conversations with opportunity owners and others; employees are able to promote their ‘brand’ by communicating successes, soliciting feedback and engaging visibility across the enterprise.  Intelligence in the form of recommendation engines, analytics and visualizations are part of the experience to drive employee self-sufficiency.

Internal mobility programs that continuously engage the workforce will also have beneficial effects on external recruiting initiatives, as members of your engaged workforce become positive brand ambassadors for your organization.

Want to hear firsthand how one Silicon Valley leader is doing it?

Join us for an exclusive luncheon in Palo Alto on Wednesday Sept 12. 

If you’re going to be in the Silicon Valley on Wednesday, September 12, please join me as I talk with Michael McNeal, Intuit’s VP Talent Strategy & Acquisition, and senior executives from UpMo, innovators in social talent management, on this topic of talent retention and mobility.  You’ll hear about Intuit’s path to creating a talent mobility culture and engage in an interactive session with peers from across the Valley on the cultural, technological and business implications of these initiatives.  This is a complimentary event, being held at the Four Seasons Silicon Valley in Palo Alto.  Register here

Exclusive Luncheon sponsored by UpMo.

Data sources:

1 US Employment Engagement Survey, Gallup Management Journal 2012
2 Deloitte “Talent Edge 2020, Building the Recovery Together” 2011
3 PWC “Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace” 2012
4 Corporate Leadership Council “The Role of Employee Engagement in the Return to Growth” 2010

Disruptive or Enabling? Social Technologies in Talent Management

Bring up the subject of social tools to business leaders, and many will still take the position that these technologies have little to no real value in supporting daily workplace initiatives. But whether these leaders are ready for it or not, today’s workers are bringing expectations for social and mobile technologies into the workplace. Ever-connected, accustomed to instant access to information and people, social and mobile technologies are simply the way we live and work today.

cloud3In a few weeks I’ll be publishing the first in a series of reports detailing both the disruptive and enabling effects of social technologies on talent management practices and technologies. The first of these reports provides a comprehensive look across nine primary categories of talent management, highlighting the evolution and transformations taking place as a result of social, mobile and cloud technologies.

Preliminary findings from this research have already been published in the latest edition of Workforce Solutions Review, a publication of the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM).  In that issue, I discuss a few of the emerging realities within the future of talent management:

  • Talent sourcing and acquisition has gone social;
  • Goals, initiatives and tasks are more immediate and transparent;
  • Identifying top talent benefits from richer insights;
  • The “system of record” becomes a portable, holistic profile; and
  • Concepts in customer analysis are informing HCM analytics.

The article also looks to the future and notes that social and mobile experiences
are impacting more than just processes; they’re also impacting how software is being developed, delivered and consumed.

For an early glimpse into the findings from this body of research, download the full article here.

The Profile Wars (Part 1): What’s In Your Wallet?

During the March 2012 CloudForce event in San Francisco, announced its newly integrated services from Salesforce Rypple, delivering social goal, performance and feedback capabilities integrated with Salesforce Chatter and CRM just six weeks after completing the acquisition of Rypple.

personal identityIn the many write-ups on the announcement, I saw a heavy focus on the functional capabilities enabled by this new offering. Integrated into Salesforce, users can give “Thanks” (recognition, badges) to other users from within the applications (i.e., while reviewing customer service on an account, or from an account page or from sales leads). Custom badges can be awarded and viewed across the organization to recognize special achievement or praise, breaking down departmental silos and fostering employee engagement and alignment. And all of this activity is captured and visible within the Salesforce Chatter activity stream.

This is useful – and cool – stuff, don’t get me wrong.

But what I’m more excited about is what this means for the person profile: How the profile is now extended with formal and social data giving them a more complete view of the individual. has joined the growing pack of players vying for control of the person profile.

The Profile Wars are on.

I wrote on the profile implications of this  acquisition back in December when Salesforce first announced their intentions for Rypple:

Even more important is the anticipated advances of the person model. The goals, feedback, badges and other elements of social performance suite driven by the Rypple solutions become additional attributes of the employee profile. The acquisition will drive these additional attributes into the person profile, which in turn will drive additional value to other Salesforce applications….The opportunity for Salesforce to grow and leverage this extensive profile beyond the enterprise relationship should appear as something more than a blip on LinkedIn’s radar screen.

In that post, I gave a “heads up” to LinkedIn, because LinkedIn’s strategy to own the portable professional profile will now be met with new competition from Salesforce as they they grow their efforts in this area. LinkedIn today delivers an employee profile that rivals that of many HRIS systems in regard to understanding employee related data. Beyond capturing education data, awards, certificates and other data, the LinkedIn profile also captures the professional network of the individual, including references and feedback from that network.

Salesforce’s Mark Benioff has repeatedly stated his intention to own the “social profile’ of his users, but with their announcement to move into the Human Capital Management (HCM ) arena, it’s clear their reach – and the potential value-add – will be much broader. For Salesforce, this isn’t about just owning the “social profile” of the individual – it’s about owning the comprehensive profile (social, formal, explicit, implicit). As Salesforce builds out its HCM offering and in turn captures additional profile elements (including but certainly not limited to data such as job title, goal and  performance review data, compensation, skills and competencies), Salesforce’s emerging people profile will provide a much richer view into the talent of an organization.

Aspirations or Reality?

Many aspire to deliver this enriched profile, but few are actually delivering it today. In Part 2 of this post, I’ll highlight those that are making progress in this area, as well as well as explore the emerging “Holy Grail” of the profile: portability.

What do you think?

Does have a leg up on the competition with regard to creating and owning the employee profile?  Do you believe the profile can be ‘owned’ by a single platform vendor or will it ultimately be ‘derived’ through the convergence of many applications in the cloud?

Up Next:  The Profile Wars (Part 2):  Who’s Delivering the Portable, Social, Professional Profile?

Related links:

Salesforce Launches Rypple Integration, Services ( Rypple Beats SAP, Oracle HR Suites (

Trends in Social Talent: Web Event Recap

In March, I had the honor of kicking off the first episode of the Social Talent Show, a bi-monthly virtual event sponsored by TalentCultureUpMo and #TChat (@Twitter).

In this inaugural show I framed Social Talent as the “Next Wave of Awesomeness”, and had a healthy conversation/debate with Rob Garcia of UpMo and Meghan Biro of TalentCulture on why you should care about these emerging trends, the risks of ignoring them and even where to focus initial efforts. (Spoiler Alert: this is SO MUCH MORE than just a buzzy topic, and doing nothing is not an option).

You’ll find a full recap of this first episode and video replay here.

The format of the Social Talent Show is conversational and engaging, yet also highly informative.  Each month it covers topics across Talent Collaboration, Talent Mobility, Culture, HR and Social Talent.  I’m especially impressed by the lineup of speakers, which run the gamut of vendors, influencers, practitioners, gurus, radicals, visionaries, bloggers, analysts and others.  Community is building around this show, and exciting conversations and debates around Social Talent are growing.  I’m following the Social Talent Show.  Are you?

WorkSimple Brings New Focus on Social Goals and Engagement

In a market where the term “social” is applied to just about any form of collaboration, where the ability to make comments on web transactions and send email is often (and misleadingly) marketed as social feedback, it can be challenging to find those solutions that truly  reimagine people processes in the context of social technologies, enabling and engaging people in getting work done collaboratively. (Refer to my earlier post for more background on this emerging space, HR’s Role in Getting Work Done: Are You a Driver, Passenger or Pedestrian?”).

Today, one such provider of reimagined people processes launched new functionality intended to broaden its reach in this area.

Social performance platform provider WorkSimple announced today a series of new capabilities to augment employee engagement and cut through the noise to focus on the priorities that matter. The company’s newly released functionality, named Focus Boards, Focus Profiles and Focus Detail, are intended to provide individuals and leaders the ability to create and manage goals in a lightweight, collaborative and easy to manage interface. One of many benefits claimed by WorkSimple is the elimination of the top-heavy complexities of traditional cascading goal paradigms, which are usually out of date long before the annual performance review comes into play. These applications foster transparency and communication across the enterprise, and accelerate engagement for improved results.

It is well understood that today’s business environment requires maximum agility. Goals and priorities shift as business conditions change, and people need the right tools to help them focus on what matters, communicate their priorities and status against their goals, and to engage with individuals across the company for transparency of vision and direction.

At the individual employee level, WorkSimple’s Focus applications are designed to enable employees to quickly and easily create social goals and see how their efforts impact the rest of the organization.

WorkSimple - Focus Boards Release - Focus Detail

At the company level, Focus Boards are meant to provide a single view of all the areas of Focus across the company as well as teams and individuals contributing to those initiatives.

WorkSimple_simple alignment at the company level

WorkSimple, a Cloud-based offering, has three levels of pricing. A very robust freemium model includes functionality for an unlimited number of users across Social Goals™, Team Focus Board, LinkedIn Integration, WorkStory™, Feedback, Recognition and Professional Reputation management. Their Group Edition and Company Edition versions then range from $5 to $9 per user per month and bring additional depth of functionality as needed.

My POV: 

  • The robust Freemium model is available for an unlimited number of users. This may be overly generous in today’s market. It may also be a highly effective Trojan horse into the rest of the WorkSimple suite…time and user feedback will tell.
  • I applaud the WorkSimple offering because I believe this is where the market must move: from HR-centric processes into end-user focused productivity and engagement tools. These applications reflect a fundamentally better way to attract, engage, manage and empower employees across the enterprise.
  • Is WorkSimple a long term solution or a quick fix? At this point I believe it is a strong solution to address the immediate needs of some organizations, with the best fit being those companies of any size that embrace social technologies and seek alternatives to hierarchical processes.

What do you think?  Are you currently using or evaluating social goal or social performance applications?

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