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  • Socialtext and Southeastern “Go for the Gold” Ahead of 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

    Socialtext’s goal has always been to create innovative solutions for breaking down departmental silos which hamper the flow of information and knowledge sharing across the enterprise. Through our enterprise social platform, we have set the stage for our customers to transform their businesses in light of the social transformation that is happening worldwide. When a company’s adoption of social collaboration reaches critical mass, the return on investment of our collaborative tools can be quite significant.

    Today, our vision is being further realized through our expanded partnership with Southeastern, the UK’s busiest commuter railway. In the past six months, Southeastern has leveraged Socialtext Connect, a flexible and robust developer toolset built on our REST API that enables developers to socially enable existing systems of record, such as ERP, CRM, or content management systems. The Socialtext solution, now integrated into the Southeastern infrastructure, enables employees to access train status information on the fly, in real-time with visibility across the entire workforce. By providing Southeastern with a more efficient way to share knowledge, expertise, ideas and information, the company can more quickly respond to change and serve their patrons effectively.

    The enthusiastic adoption by Southeastern’s employees has paved the way for Socialtext to spark connectedness and information sharing companywide. The stage was set for Southeastern with “employees regularly asking for social networking tools to engage and share information with their colleagues,” said Sarah Boundy, Southeastern’s Head of Communications and Publicity.
    Boundy further explains:

    Our customers demand accurate information quickly, so it’s vital that our staff is connected to each other and have fast access to real-time information in a rapidly changing environment. Sharing knowledge and expertise with colleagues is key and with our original pilot program, Socialtext allowed us to do this in a quick and efficient manner. We look forward to rolling out this successful service to all of our 3,800 employees in the coming weeks.

    We look forward to participating in Southeastern’s success, especially in light of the upcoming London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, beginning on July 27, 2012. This is going to be a great opportunity for Southeastern to put enterprise social collaboration into action, with an anticipated 20 percent increase in passengers. Utilizing Socialtext to provide real-time visibility and flow of information means operation fluidity and timeliness during such an honorable and exciting occasion.

    Socialtext – All Gassed Up and Stepping on the Accelerator

    Socialtext Receives Cash Infusion to Further invest in the Future of Social Collaboration

    The enterprise social software space has seen tremendous growth and innovation over the past few years. This is beginning to contribute to the demise of information and knowledge silos previously seen in corporations. With this, enterprises have been able to unlock and release information and knowledge across teams, groups, departments, functional organizations, business units, and even across company boundaries. Breaking down silos of all types is our vision for the future for enterprise social collaboration.

    Today I am pleased to announce that we at Socialtext have taken a huge step towards our vision by receiving a significant strategic cash infusion by Bedford Funding, the $1.4 billion private equity firm behind Talent Management Solution provider, Peoplefluent™. The infusion of capital that we are receiving will accelerate the development of our industry-leading enterprise social collaboration tools and augment sales efforts for both sides. We will ramp up hiring in all areas, and will also serve as the new Silicon Valley hub for Peoplefluent.

    With this partnership, both Socialtext and Peoplefluent customers can now experience all the benefits of becoming a social enterprise has to offer. Deploying a Social Intranet inside your company can help you avoid the fate of information silos; more importantly, you can inject data, transactions, reports, and objects from your core enterprise applications into the social stream – by deploying what we refer to as the “Social Layer” within the enterprise architecture. The layer will span all employees across all organizational boundaries and be the connector to key enterprise applications beneath it in the architectural stack. Our initial approach to enabling the Social Layer was our introduction of Socialtext Connect, which we will continue to extend with Peoplefluent.

    The talent management industry has quickly adopted the use of social software to get work done in a more convenient way. Peoplefluent will put Socialtext to work and are planning for a strategic software integration, which will allow employees to incorporate the solution into their daily workflows. Socialtext will continue to act, sell and service its social software customers independently and without interruption. Here’s what Charles S. Jones, Managing Director of Bedford Funding and Chairman and CEO of Peoplefluent™ had to say:

    We are investing in Socialtext to help solidify its leadership position in enterprise social software. Our recent strategies have focused on creating solutions for our customers that enable greater employee engagement and collaboration across the enterprise. This investment in Socialtext, and its industry leading social software, immediately advances our approaches in customer support, service, education and ongoing collaboration.

    At Socialtext, we strive to provide a social software SaaS solution that delivers a resource for customers to communicate, collaborate on internal projects and connect on the information necessary to be more effective in the workplace. Our unique deployment model – all SaaS, but either public or private cloud – meets companies’ specific and unique security requirements, while making sure companies still reap the benefits of software as a service (SaaS) — including fast deployment, fast iteration cycles, little or no maintenance and low total cost of ownership. With this, Peoplefluent will have the ability to simplify the exchange of ideas and corporate data, therefore knowledge silos that traditionally hampered them will be removed.

    Moving forward, we are excited to be expanding our internal workforce, and will continue to adapt and produce an innovative product based on our customers’ feedback. With an increase in resources, we will be able to offer an even better customer service experience and expand on our priority of enabling customers to achieve business value, as well as adoption. After all, at Socialtext our methodology emphasizes the importance of identifying business champions through partnership with our customers and through implementation to ensure they are experiencing maximum business results, which will only increase as we join the Bedford and Peoplefluent family.

    Socialtext and NetDocuments: Document Sharing at its Finest

    Our goal has always been to provide a comprehensive social software platform that helps employees be more efficient and effective, no matter where they are located, around the world.

    Today, we’ve taken another step towards our vision of a fully connected, internal network, with the announcement of a partnership with NetDocuments. This partnership provides our customers with the ability to create, share and manage documents through the native Socialtext interface. As an industry-leading cloud content management provider, NetDocuments is a great partner to work with towards this vision.
    Our client, Climateworks Foundation, is a non-profit organization that prevents dangerous climate change globally. They initially approached us to develop a social knowledge exchange that would allow partners across their global network to share information and learn from each other in order to quickly and effectively execute against initiatives. Sarah Nichols, director of knowledge management at ClimateWorks, envisioned a solution that would inspire different non-profit and philanthropic agencies around the world to collaborate and share ideas to improve the network’s success as a whole. And thus, a partnership was born.

    By integrating Socialtext functionality with ClimateWorks’ existing structured NetDocuments content management system, practitioners are now able to customize the organization of their information, create content together, maintain version control and easily connect with one another to share information and new ideas.
    At Socialtext we’re continuing to drive our vision of the “social layer”, making all systems of record easily accessible for social collaboration and enabling more efficient execution of business initiatives. Our partnership with NetDocuments, in addition to our existing integration with systems such as salesforce.com and Microsoft Sharepoint, underscores our progress in moving towards developing a fully connected, internal network.

    And as always we’re excited about working with smart customers like Climateworks and great partners like NetDocuments.

    For more information about our partnership with NetDocuments, please see our release here.

    What’s Next for Online Piracy

    From SOPA, PIPA and OPEN – the Stop Online Piracy Act, Protect IP Act in the Senate and Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act – to the take down of file sharing giant MegaUpload, online piracy is all the buzz right now. As internet protestors made a stand on January 18th to keep the Internet uncensored, we took a minute to reflect on what could happen if any of these legislations did pass. What are the impacts they could have on enterprise social networking, Software as a Service (SaaS)/Cloud companies, and how could it restrain the current growth of international business?

    SOPA, which has been dropped for the time being, represents a fundamental change in the way the Internet works today and could undermine all SaaS companies and working in the Enterprise 2.0 space. This poses a great threat to many enterprise social networking providers, such as Socialtext who have shared hosting with their customers. Additionally, if this bill was passed, it could have broken-down the advancements made in international business if other countries followed suit and disabled the ability to provide services globally.

    At Socialtext, customers use our technology to interact and share socially across the enterprise, from marketing to customer support, engineering, research and more. We were the first company to deliver enterprise social software and are focused on delivering a SaaS platform that enables social collaboration, allowing employees to share knowledge with their colleagues and teams. In addition to sharing internal knowledge and documents, customers also share information off the web, which can pose a problem if the sites and/or content shared comes from a site deemed infringed. In result, customers (especially those using extranets) would have to self-police themselves or face substantial penalties.

    After strong protests and, according to PC World, $4.5 million people signing the Google anti-SOPA and PIPA petition, the bill is currently being assessed and reworked. So, what does the future hold for Internet security? Will OPEN gain more ground than its predecessors, SOPA and PIPA? Only time will tell as SOPA sponsor and Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) continues to work on getting an antipiracy legislation passed.

    For more thoughts on this please check out my special guest piece, “SOPA: Dead but Not Forgotten” on TMCnet.com and featured interview on Technorati.

    Finding People – My profile is just an opening bid

    Well-written use cases presented by prospective customers is a fantastic sign that a new technology space is becoming less immature – and this is definitely happening in the Enterprise 2.0 market. I’m excited by the scenarios that our prospects are presenting to us. They have well-defined business problems that they want to utilize social software to address. It’s a great step forward from the generic “we want to get social inside our company” we heard a couple years ago.

    The ability to assemble teams around a new business challenge is a use-case that has flourished the past year. Whether it’s a pitch team for an advertising RFP, a launch team for a new product introduction, a cross-functional team investigating new market opportunities, or a consulting team for a new client – all of these scenarios share some core, common questions:

    • “Who has worked with this client or customer before?”
    • “Who knows their industry issues?”
    • “Who has expertise and experience in specific technical skill XYZ?”
    • “Who is a well-regarded thought leader in issue XYZ?”

    And so on.

    Most people presume that using enterprise social networking to assemble teams inside a company would be based on a LinkedIn or Facebook type of model, but we don’t find that practical.

    Let me explain why.

    Facebook and LinkedIn are symmetric networks based on mutual “friending.” Symmetry in those social networks works because it strengthens intimacy and increases confidence to share. But because corporate social networks need to be transparent, you can see everyone that a colleague friends anyway, making this model less useful. It can cause corporate networks to devolve into what I call the “VP Trading Card collection game.” (See my post, Will you be my friend – yes or no?). In other words, you friend people for reasons of status; not because they’re the right people to help you get your work done and serve customers.

    More importantly, most people logically assume that the way to make sure you can find people with the right attributes (answers to the above questions) is to ensure that their profiles are rich and thoroughly populated. Unfortunately, this relies on people filling out dozens of profile fields, most of which they might not update after their first day on the job. Consequently, what I do and what you say about me trumps what I say about myself.

    Socialtext People, our profile capability, takes a different approach for some important philosophical and strategic reasons.

    • What I say about myself (my profile) is really just an “opening bid.”
    • What others say about me (Tags on my profile and how my colleagues interact with me in the Activity Stream) is much more interesting
    • What I DO (my activity stream generated by my in-the-flow-of-work actions) is the MOST relevant set of information about me – what I do, what I say, who I work with, and on which topics

    Vote with my attention, not my politics

    Moreover, we’ve adopted an ASYMMETRIC social networking model (ie Twitter’s “follow” instead of Facebook’s “friend” model) – anyone can follow me, and I don’t need to “approve” them. And I can follow anyone. This leads to a much more scalable network for the transmission of signals with much less noise (See Tim O’Reilly’s excellent post Goodreads vs. Twitter: The Benefits of Asymmetric Follow). It also avoids funky unintended political behavior (see my post A different kind of social capital at work – Attention especially for a humor interlude from Geek ‘n Poke).

    For example, if a VP of marketing limits his or her network to other VPs and senior directors, that person might miss out on some valuable information or knowledge held by someone lower in the organizational hierarchy. So if that marketing VP was working on, say, a strategy to reach new markets in Asia, they may want to start following someone in business development or the new sales rep based in China. These other colleagues may not be as “powerful” as the Marketing VP, but their updates may be far more relevant to what that VP is working on.

    It’s these kinds of connections that can lead to the elimination of silos and true business transformation inside a company.

    How We’re Leveraging Scale to Improve Socialtext

    At Socialtext, we’re proud to offer a flexible software as a service (SaaS) business model that delivers the enterprise social tools people need to perform their best work — but with the security, flexibility and integration required by IT to make them a strategic asset inside their organization.

    As business models in the Enterprise 2.0 world evolve, we’ve examined how we can streamline our sales, trial and provisioning process to get companies up and running even faster. The launch of the Socialtext Virtual Appliance — a VMware image that contains the most current version of Socialtext — created a huge opportunity for us to move in that direction.

    So today, we’re announcing two new offerings that build on that vision.

    1. The Virtual Appliance Trial

    Launching in May, prospective Socialtext customers can select, try, evaluate and buy their Socialtext solution by downloading the Virtual Appliance directly from Socialtext.com. This delivers IT a full private instance of the Socialtext platform, without encountering any of the friction that hardware-supported, traditional, behind-the-firewall deployments usually entail. It also gives companies the ability to host their data as they try Socialtext, something we know the market craves as some freemium models hold IT captive to buy their data back from vendors.

    2. Expanding channel partner programs

    Today we’re also announcing the ability of a new distribution channel via our partner program. In addition to our referral, reseller and integrator partners, we’ll be rolling out the ability to distribute Socialtext via a network of OEM Partners. In doing so, we’re making it easier for traditional application vendors to make Socialtext a social layer that spans the entire enterprise. To learn more, please e-mail partners@socialtext.com.

    As we are now in a position to insert scale and leverage into our business model better than ever before, we have reorganized our resources in the way to best capitalize on these opportunities. We look forward to passing the benefits of scale and leverage on to our customers, and to the exciting work in the months ahead.

    The Socialtext Virtual Appliance: Leveraging Social Software in Your Private Cloud

    Socialtext has always had a unique business model. On one hand, we’re a SaaS company through and through. By that, I simply mean that our contracts are recurring every year. Much like a magazine subscription, if people are happy with our work, they renew. If we fail to deliver on their critical requirements and ensure they derive value from social software, customers take their business elsewhere.

    But unlike other SaaS companies, we’re not cloud zealots in the traditional sense. Since we’ve been delivering enterprise social software longer than any company in this space, we know IT has strict requirements that dictates the critical information shared on Socialtext be stored securely behind the firewall in their private cloud. We understand the requirements for synchronizing with corporate directories, providing single-sign-on solutions and integration with other enterprise applications.

    Today’s announcement that you can run Socialtext on VMware is meant to support that freedom of choice and convenience. It complements our existing deployment options, which includes traditional hosting (single or multi-tenant), and a secure appliance box that hooks into a company’s existing infrastructure.

    The best part: No matter if our customers choose the Socialtext cloud or their own private cloud, they receive all the updates and upgrades from us. Just because you want your data on-site doesn’t mean you should have a high total cost of ownership that sucks up IT resources, time, and money.

    We also think VMware really helps companies leverage their computing resources as they scale social software throughout the enterprise. The elastic way in which you can scale VMware made it a perfect fit for the Socialtext virtual appliance, and we were delighted to have them join us in today’s news.

    We love giving our customers choices, and the Virtual Appliance is another option in the Socialtext arsenal that we’re really proud of.

    Where Is Everybody? Moving Intranets from Static to Social

    Making corporate intranets social is the main theme of Socialtext 4.6, which we announced today. The focus originated from my favorite source of insight: Our customers. I love it when they hit you over the head with use cases that emerge inside their companies.

    Starting several months ago, we noticed an exciting pattern amidst many of newer customers: Their usage and adoption rates were accelerating on a curve previously unseen by us, or, frankly, most Enterprise 2.0 use cases for that matter.

    Interestingly, several of these customers didn’t have grandiose plans of transforming their intranet. They merely sought to leverage social software to solve specific pain points their businesses faced. They were engaging in what our VP of customer success, Michael Idinopulos, would refer to as “In the flow of work” collaboration. They also wanted to eliminate knowledge and information silos that hampered business performance. In one case, the head of worldwide sales tasked about 200 people from his team, product marketing, and sales ops to improve training materials and product launches. In another case, we saw a broad, horizontal deployment to modernize knowledge sharing across disparate teams and functions.

    But after launching these focused deployments, word spread fast.

    Why?

    Other employees looked at their intranets and realized what it was missing: People.

    Pretty soon, employees outside the targeted usage groups at these companies started asking why they couldn’t have the same easy-to-use social applications in their intranet. Why did they have to tolerate the static, frustrating, and out-of-date intranet that was in place?

    We’ve seen two results from their requests. Some of our customers have actually replaced the front door to their intranet with Socialtext – particularly with Socialtext Dashboard as the starting point. Dashboard allows people to not only access tools within Socialtext to connect with colleagues and share content, but they can also access other systems, applications and sites across their company. Others, though it wasn’t their intention at the onset, scrapped their intranet entirely and moved to Socialtext. These customers have transformed the look and feel of their intranet by injecting social patterns into it. Employees can share via microblogging, self-publish through blogs, collaborate on wikis, and form groups across organizational boundaries.

    Meanwhile, my team also noticed a trend in the language used by our sales prospects. They began hearing phrases like “Our intranet stinks” or “No one can find anything in our intranet.” Just yesterday, I talked with the CIO of a large company who said, “We call our intranet ‘The Junk Drawer.’” Last month, we did a webinar called “Your Social Intranet – The Place Where Work Gets Done.” During the event, we ran a fun contest to see who could propose the funniest David Letterman-style “Top 10 ways you know your Intranet needs updating.” The visceral and sarcastic nature of the submissions we received speaks volumes about people’s frustration with current intranets. (More on that in future posts.)

    So the new features that we’ve rolled up into Socialtext 4.6 are really the result of focusing our development and innovation through this lens – helping make your intranet more social. We’re doing as much as we can to make PEOPLE be a first-class object in your intranet. As a result, we can make the intranet be a place where people go to get work done together — not just a place to try to find information, documents, and application links.

    Why the Yammer Migration Service

    As we announce our Yammer migration service this morning, I want to provide context for the decision to offer this service and our reasoning.

    First and foremost, this was driven from conversations with our customers and prospects. It’s not meant to be vendor jockeying. Like us, these companies hold a philosophical difference with Yammer for how technology should be purchased and deployed throughout the enterprise, and this service is meant to help them transition to Socialtext as painlessly and cost effectively as possible.

    There are 2 main themes that emerged from these conversations:

    1. The business model of “free for users, but charge IT for control” just doesn’t sit well with many of the IT folks we work with. The unplanned, unbudgeted cost is at odds with the way IT works in most mid-to-large businesses.
    2. Compliance and security concerns mean many customers need microblogging deployed behind their firewall.

    Many of them don’t want to engage in this publicly because it would expose the fact that valuable data was being traded across their network (on a free version of Yammer), only to find out they had to pay for the seats already in use to get control of that data. It doesn’t feel good, and it’s something we believe has frustrated many people in the market. At Socialtext, our customers (and their respective IT leaders) always own their data — before, during and after their time as paying customers.

    So we’re responding to the needs that an increasing number of customers and prospects have presented to us. Socialtext has a history of positive go-to-market strategies, both publicly with our marketing campaigns and privately in our sales conversations, reflecting the respect we have for our competitors. As in any competitive market, we are attacking similar problems using different approaches. This service is a reflection of that difference.

    Four Reasons Why We’re Betting on the Open Web in the Enterprise

    Last week, I blogged about why “Social Software needs to be a Layer, not a Feature, in the Enterprise.” Now, from an architectural perspective, I’ll riff on what we’ve done to make this a reality. Back in June, we launched Socialtext Connect, a new offering that enables companies to surface critical events from enterprise applications and inject them as streams into our social software platform, where employees across an organization collaborate and take action.

    On a high level, we made a strategic bet with Socialtext Connect that an embrace of Open Web standards and REST APIs will make it easier for companies to integrate their traditional systems with social applications.

    Here are four reasons we have made bets on the open web in the enterprise.

    1. REST APIs — We’re developing to where the puck will be, not where it’s been. We’re helping channel the wave of open web standards inside the enterprise firewall. A large number of enterprise IT departments have been rethinking their approach to their enterprise architecture, using REST instead of SOAP – for faster and more agile development cycles, better scalability, and cleaner separation between client/device and server/service. We’ve focused on REST as our API strategy from the very beginning, and we’re doubling down on that bet with Socialtext Connect.
    2. Bringing architectural patterns, not just Twitter and Facebook, from Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0 — We continue to monitor emerging patterns in the consumer Web 2.0 space for relevant value within the enterprise firewall. The most recent of these are Twitter Annotations, Webhooks, and activitystrea.ms – all of which we’re incorporating into Socialtext Connect. Our co-founder, Adina Levin, has also blogged about the power and usefulness of these standards in the enterprise.
    3. To escape application silos, the Social Layer needs to be usable by non-users of applications — Ease of use remains key – application streams and App Bots are designed to facilitate productive, context-based conversation around reports, events, and exceptions in the underlying application, by injecting these into what was previously only a channel for conversation between people. AppBots aren’t just persona that “tweet” – they are interactive agents that can respond to queries and drilldowns by users – all of which contributes rich context to the overall conversation about a specific event or exception. This video can highlight what I mean.
    4. We’re trying to straddle and connect the applications and social worlds without binding you to either — With regards to integration and architecture, we take a different approach that our competitors in the Enterprise 2.0 world. Some believe that social technology should be an add-on feature to their departmental application, and therefore produce a programming model that’s an extension of their application model. Others think social software should be a heavyweight Java container, where you pour your development resources, time and money. Our objective is to enable you to liberate information, events, and transactions from application silos and the user community silos that are captive to them – by liberating your development resources from a monolithic, stack-bound development model.

    By embracing open web standards and making social a layer in the enterprise architecture, we’re already seeing how this can play out with our customers. As we shared recently, Hayes Knight, an accounting consultancy in Australia, used Socialtext Connect to integrate their CRM system with Socialtext Signals to make it easier and faster for the company’s accountants to collaborate and answer important customer questions.

    “The speed with which we’re answering questions has been cut in half, and is a full 7−8 minutes faster on average,” says CTO Jack Pedzikiewicz, a very active member of our SocialDev community, which shares best practices on Socialtext Connect. “The wonderful thing is, as we capture these great answers inside of Socialtext workspaces, we also cut back on repetition where questions cover the same issue and build best of breed responses and knowledge on key issues of importance. It allows us to serve our customers faster and more consistently.”

    We believe Hayes Knight’s success is just the beginning, and look forward to sharing more customer stories in the coming months.

    About This Blog

    Weblog on gaining business results from social software.

    On this blog, Socialtext staffers and customers explore how companies can gain the most business value from their use of enterprise social software, including microblogging, social networking, filtered activity streams, widget-based dashboards, blogs and wikis.

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    From Warm-up to Winner’s Podium: Social Onboarding Goes for the Gold

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