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Jive's new marketing chief adds a consumer touch to enterprise collaboration

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez October 23, 2014
Summary:
Elisa Steele has recently joined the company from Microsoft, where she headed up all consumer apps and services. She now wants to add her consumer perspective to Jive.

Jive's new marketing chief Elisa Steele played a prominent role at the company's annual user conference in Las Vegas this week. In fact, Steele held more

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stage time than CEO Tony Zingale during the two main keynote sessions at the event, where she confidently handled presenting the latest news and eloquently delivered insights into Jive's strategy. And it was well received – the general reaction from those I have spoken to is that she's a welcome addition to the enterprise collaboration company.

Some may be surprised to find out that Steele joined Jive nine months ago from Microsoft, where she headed up marketing for the company's entire consumer apps and services division. Prior to this, she held the role of CMO at Skype. Two very high profile, but both very consumer facing roles.

So why make the move to enterprise? And why Jive? I got to sit down with Steele at JiveWorld14 to find out a bit more about why she felt she could bring value to the company and how she is planning to use her consumer-facing experience in the world of business collaboration.

Steele explained that two of the main reasons for leaving Microsoft for Jive were that she wanted to be centrally located in the Bay area where her home is, as well as that she had previously been one of Jive's first big enterprise customers back in 2007 and had fallen in love with the product. Steele said:

Over the years as I went to different companies for different jobs, I stayed a friend of Jive's, because as a Jive customer you can be pretty passionate about the good things it brings to your company and its people. I loved the product, I used the product, I was even an evangelist for the product, and I didn't even work here! So I thought it was a good match.

But Steele hasn't left behind her consumer experience and in fact wants to use it to Jive's advantage in product development, as she is a firm believer that having good technology doesn't give you enough of an advantage to succeed in what is an increasingly competitive market. She's hoping that her background will help the company to create a strong brand loyalty between its customers and the product, as is often the case with popular consumer products and services.

Technology and innovation are the critical components to even be able to play the game. We have smart engineers and highly technical talent in the company - but it's not just about the product anymore, it's not just about the technology. It's about the human connection.

It's about people and bringing people together. That's what consumer business is all about, it's about creating brand affinity and an emotional attachment to the brand. You do that by genuinely bringing stories that are true to the forefront of people's experiences or creating experiences for people that are memorable and special.

So, for Jive, our passion for bringing our brand to market is about both putting together the best product that we can put together and the best people and connection to people. Because people are the ones that actually do the communicating and collaborating.

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Upon joining the company, Steele said that she had three areas that she wanted to address and would make her core focus for the first nine months. Firstly, she's been driving an initiative to firm up Jive's go-to-market branding and cementing its product goals, as she believes that the company needed to better understand what the product actually means to different companies and people using it. From what I understand, this involves explaining the value of Jive being a 'social hub' to enterprises, where it integrates and connects with a variety of different systems and tools in a seamless way, creating an end-to-end platform for people to collaborate on. This has involved training up the organisation, sharing messaging with partners and bringing it to market.

Secondly, Steele was keen to “revitalise” Jive's partner community. She said that Jive has a solid history with a handful of partners that have done well with the product, but it hasn't previously provided a clear structure for partners to engage with it on, to help Jive scale. As a result, she has launched a new partner program that is now in full swing and has, according to Steele, attracted lots of new partners to the company.



But it was the third area of focus that I found the most interesting, largely because it clearly again ties in with her adding a consumer touch to Jive's product line. Most notablyby stripping back the product itself and selling a much simpler Jive to customers. She said:

I wanted to create more focus and more discrete discipline around what products we are going to build and what products we are not. We have developed our product vision, which is to create every product that we decide to invest in and make it simple, make it smart and make it beautiful. [In the past] we have added features by the volume into our product. It makes us robust, it makes us unique, but it doesn't necessarily help us scale.

So just from a strategy perspective, when I say 'simple', it's about understanding the must have experience in that product and making that very distinct, smart and beautiful. And not carrying that with all of the other dozens of features that are nice to haves, but aren't actually must haves.

We want to try to break down our product into specific use cases that have a specific buyer, are solving a specific business pain point and have clarity about how that problem gets solved.

The hub - a competitive advantage

I was also keen to find out from Steele why she believes Jive holds the competitive advantage in what is an increasingly competitive market – see our piece here on a recent round-up of trends and announcements from the likes of Box, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce.com. I explained to Steele during the interview that whilst I had enjoyed JiveWorld14 and had enjoyed finding out more from customers, the one element I felt was lacking was a real push to explain how Jive is different in this space. What makes it special in a market with so many heavyweights vying for the top spot?

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Firstly, Steele said that the entrance of other competitors into the market is a good thing, because she believes that this validates the importance of enterprise collaboration. And that it adds credibility to the idea that this is how businesses need to work. She said:

This isn't the future of work; if you're not working in a collaborative way and using technologies to bring people together, to get things together, then you're behind and you're not able to have that competitive advantage. [The competition] is good for Jive and it's good for the ecosystem.

However, Steele was also quick to point out that from her perspective, Jive is indeed different. The main difference being that Jive works as a 'hub' that pulls everything together for people to collaborate, whilst she sees other companies just adding social features around certain processes. She said:

The other types of big players that are coming out with features that are viewed as being competitors to Jive are creating social features around a particular task, process or document.

So yes, you can actually collaborate around documents from Microsoft, or documents from Google, or you can collaborate and share streams around conversations happening in Salesforce.com. But these have a beginning and they have an end, then you go off and do something else. Jive is about creating the hub of where work happens, which is why we are very focused on integrations.

You can have a conversation in Jive or a conversation in Salesforce.com, and it all shows up in an integrated way. Same thing for Microsoft Office, same thing with Google. It becomes a place where work gets done, regardless of what project it is, regardless of what team it is, regardless of where that project stops and starts. That's fundamentally different.

Finally, Steele noted that Jive's main challenge for the year ahead is about managing growth and creating a company that can grow successfully. Although she said that Jive will always offer on-premise solutions, given the heavily regulated nature of some of its clients, she did add that Jive's cloud business is providing most of the growth for the business at present. She said:

Our number one challenge - a growth agenda. We are a very successful company with extremely well known and well regarded customers. However, we have been in a market where we have been selling pretty complex implementations to pretty big companies. We've now invested in a new approach with our cloud offering, which is one of the fastest growing aspects in our business. And we are investing in thinking about how we do these purpose built applications in a way that takes the best of Jive and creates more velocity in the market. It's not a growth agenda for growth's sake.

My Take

Steele, in my opinion, is a welcome addition to Jive. She's smart, she speaks well, she's a force to be reckoned with and its obvious that she's got some big plans for putting Jive on the right track. Jive hasn't always had the best reputation in the past, but Steele's plans to go to market with applications that better resonate with its users will no doubt go down well with customers. And having seen some of the latest demos, and spoken to some of Jive's

Social Network Interface
biggest/newest customers, it seems that things may well be coming together.

However, whilst I agree with Steele that Jive's biggest selling point is its ability to act as the 'social hub', I'm not quite sure the company is yet selling itself well enough on that point. Or perhaps isn't making that point clear enough. Whilst the event this week focused a lot on integrations with Microsoft, Google etc, which is obviously critical to the 'social hub' capability, I would like to see Jive better explain the big picture of how this hub directly impacts and improves a business.

I got that detail speaking to Schneider's director of social enterprise yesterday, where he explained that implementing Jive has driven an organisational change across the business – which I think is an important point that that needs to be driven home to customers. A social hub doesn't just make it easier to collaborate, it can fundamentally change the way a company works.

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