CEO Elisa Steele talks taking Jive to the next stage with Aurea acquisition

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez May 3, 2017
Collaboration software vendor Jive has been acquired by a private equity firm for $462m, but what awaits for customers and the platform?

Elisa Steele Jive
It was announced this week at Jive’s annual user conference in Las Vegas that the collaboration software vendor is set to be acquired by a private equity firm for $462 million and will become part of the Aurea family of companies - but lots of questions remain about the company’s future under new ownership.

Given that the deal is yet to close, there is only so much that Jive CEO Elisa Steele can reveal publicly. That being said, during a press Q&A Steele did provide some insights into her personal intentions for the future of the company and its customers.

Jive has undergone a comprehensive reset strategy in recent years, with a push for public cloud, mobile applications, an improved UX, and a focus on its open platform and collaboration hub.

Judging from Steele’s comments this week, it appears that more of the same is in store, with a hint that Jive could be taking advantage of the capabilities found in Aurea’s family of software companies, which include a number of CRM, retail, customer engagement, marketing and CX platforms.

Reiterating previous sentiments during the conference keynote, Steele said that she felt that there was a close alignment between Aurea and Jive’s objectives. Steele also highlighted the work Jive has put in, with regards to its restructure. She said:

If you’ve been following Jive over the past year, we’ve made a number of changes to our business. And I think it’s made us a stronger company. We really restructured our business last year to create a more financially attractive company, as well as a company with a lot more focus. We went to market with the interactive internet and our strategy around customer communities and we built a business around our current customers, as well as bringing in some great new enterprise brands.

With the announcement of our acquisition, I think we are about to enter the next chapter of Jive in the marketplace of collaboration. Those two companies coming together have value proposition around customer engagement and experiences, and employee engagement and experiences.

I asked Steele what words of reassurance she could give to customers that may be feeling nervous about the future of Jive and its investments in the platform. Steele said that the presence of Aurea at Jive World in Las Vegas this week should highlight how the value it is placing on the Jive acquisition. She said:

I think what I’ll say is that the first way that we approach this, by having the Aurea management team and the CEO here at the conference, they were at our EAB hours after we announced, and our customers really appreciate that. It’s kind of not standard to do that. And they felt really appreciated and they felt front and centre, where they could talk to the team and meet the team.

We don’t have all the answers yet, but those relationships are starting to form. I think as we get closer to the close and the close actually happens, we’ve got a really good head start. At Jive we think that’s extremely important.

And although Steele couldn’t comment too much on the future integration plans with Aurea, she did hint that customers could expect to take advantage of the other companies in its portfolio, which she suggested could help take on the competition in the collaboration software marketplace. Steele said:

In terms of competition, as Jive comes together with another company with a software portfolio, the opportunity is right there to broaden the value proposition and allow more integration across other products. And I think that’s an advantage to Jive in the future. Maybe not today as a standalone company today, but in the future for sure.

The bigger picture

With the potential changes to the platform in mind, I was also keen to find out from Steele where she sees gaps in Jive’s current capabilities. This week Jive’s product team took to the stage to announce a number of welcome enhancements to the company’s collaboration hub - including a new ID platform, enhanced analytics and new enterprise search functions.

However, whilst Steele wouldn’t comment on specific features that may be in the roadmap, she did say that the biggest driver at the moment is Jive’s shift in focus to the cloud. This week Jive announced that it would be moving all of its public cloud customers over to AWS in the coming months. She said:

This is really a change in how the world of work and culture is emerging, with the ability to collaborate in ways that technology didn’t allow us to collaborate before. So it is competitive. It’s also very confusing, because there are so many different solutions that are trying to solve similar problems from different angles. What we hunkered down on over the past two years is, what is our core strategy that makes us distinct and differentiated?

I’ll step back from that question and instead of answering exactly what features, I’ll tell you’ve been on a really important journey to get to cloud. And customers are on that journey too, some faster than others. What we find is, and we’ve definitely experienced this the past couple of years, is that we’ve really invested in our cloud product and cloud first. We had customers wonder, hey, what about me? But as every month progressed, more and more customers got on board.

Because it wasn’t just about getting on board with Jive, it was about really getting on board and seeing the future in their own companies. Other applications were going to cloud, other companies were going to cloud, peer discussions really influenced how they were going to cloud, the CIO was now having a vision. What we saw was that our customers actually moved faster than they told us they were going to. You can always have a future list of what companies want, but really, what’s the bigger picture? I will predict that I think it will move faster and it will accelerate, regardless of the features.

And according to Steele, the move to AWS has been welcomed by Jive’s largest customers. She added:

Our biggest enterprise customers, when we went out and told them that we were going to move to AWS, we were braced for the tough conversation. What most of our customers said was: great, finally, I’ve got 14 other applications on AWS. So it went faster than we expected.

Being open

Steele explained that central to Jive’s strategy is to be an open platform, not wanting to lock out other vendors. It can be assumed that this approach is to ensure that Jive becomes the core of a broader portfolio of collaboration tools that an enterprise may choose to procure. She said that Jive can create added value from collaboration systems already in place.

You don’t want to throw away those investments, you actually want to bring more ROI to those investments. That makes Jive even more valuable, because we can make more ROI out of an abandoned SharePoint implementation that is storing corporate memory. We can more ROI for the customer out of a Box implementation where content is stored, but nobody knows how to get get to it, change it, collaborate and then get to the latest version. So there’s a lot of latent business value in these disparate systems that have been implemented and Jive can connect that.

But it can’t be denied that Jive is facing stiff competition from both the traditional vendors in the marketplace that are introducing social tools integrated either as part of a broader portfolio, or as standalone products. In addition, the likes of newcomers, such as Slack, are adding pressure. However, Steele believes that those newcomers facer a tougher time of getting the enterprise buy-in that Jive already has experience in getting. She said:

Slack really started from the small team experience, get a couple people together, we can quickly be able to have a conversation. Jive started with the enterprise wide, enterprise strong, with the strength of security and reliability, with all the things you need in the enterprise. Now we are moving to an integrated solution.

So the question is, who is going to get there faster? Jive is not only bringing together what it has been very good at, not only in terms of teams, groups and organisations, but also now bringing in that real-time experience to be able to quickly connect one on one with other people. To get penetration in the enterprise, I would claim that Jive is at a better starting place, because we already have the capabilities that enterprises expect and need to make a purchase decision. And then I think Slack is going to try and do the same thing, they’re trying to move up the stack and get into the enterprise, but they also have to build that base and establish an enterprise kind of solution.

However, Steele also wouldn’t rule out partnering with Slack in the future. She said:

We actually see any technology provider, providing collaboration type of tools, as a potential partner. We have an open API strategy, so we can integrate with any type of tool that we want to or our customers want to, so we would definitely see Slack as a partner in terms of putting what they’re good at with what we are good at, creating an ability to use both at the same time.

My take

A very interesting time for Jive. The turnaround strategy has made strong progress and Steele is a strong leader. What remains for the company under the new ownership? Will Jive be absorbed into the broader portfolio? Or will it be the central component to Aurea’s broader capabilities? The next 12 months will be very telling.