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Jive talkin’ with CMO John Rizzo

We recently sat down with Jive Software’s Palo Alto-based Chief Marketing Officer John Rizzo to discuss new social technologies and his company’s expansion into the Australian market.

Social business platforms are revolutionising the workplace. Companies are experiencing increased productivity, greater efficiency and better employee engagement by moving away from an email-based approach to communication.

Jive Software is a leading player in the social technology space globally and is already being used in Australia by companies like PwC and REA Group. It provides new and exciting ways for employees to collaborate without falling into the trap of applying the Facebook model to internal communications, like some of its competitors.

Here’s what Jive’s CMO had to say about the ever-evolving business environment and his company’s role within it.

Perhaps you can explain how to product works? 

We move within the category of social, and social as you know, takes three main forms. There’s the form of social technology in the consumer space like Facebook and Twitter and there’s the whole social media space about awareness building. It’s kind of a different form of advertising to engage consumers.

Then there’s the use of social media largely for consumer brands to create engagement with their customers. Then there’s the third form, what we refer to as social business, which is applying technology so that people in business can get their jobs done more productively, they’re kind of unlocked from the churning of email.

In fact if you look at most people today in the business world, their primary form of collaboration is email, which was embedded 30 years ago. I don’t know about you, but I can’t find anybody who wants to get more email. Then you get people who come into the workforce, who are younger, basically come from the world of SMS. So you have this old school way of communicating, collaborating with a whole bunch of new employees in the work space being more efficient.

What Jive does in the business space is rebuild a series of technologies that allow businesses to be more productive and we apply those technologies either in small teams in work groups so that a small business or a small team of people can collaborate and connect with one another better. We can extend the network to their distribution partners or suppliers or their agencies, and we also do this for large companies as well, who have a hard time with 100 000 employees having to align them across the organisation.

You say you have some small clients, how small do you mean?

We work with companies that have 25-30 employees, and the key for the smaller companies is really the notion that if you’ve got 1 employee in a company of 10 employees, that person has a 10 percent impact on the productivity of the organisation. In small companies, one person makes a huge difference. That’s why start-ups are so productive, because each person is really tied to either building a product, or convincing a customer to buy something.

So in those cases if you’ve got an employee base that’s got to connect with partners or who are either helping design the product or sell the product, if you can find ways to cut down on development times, sales times, training times it has a big, big impact on the business.

As the company scales then you can grow faster than by adding employees, because every time you add an employee to a small business, that’s the primary source of cost. About 70 percent of operating costs of small businesses are from employees.

How is Jive different from other products like Salesforce Chatter?

So there’s a range of technologies, Chatter is one, Yammer’s another. They’re largely focused on taking the pure consumer social technology that came from the Facebook world, the connectivity stream, blogging, wikis – it’s sort of just saying let’s take that and put it in the enterprise. That tends to be used largely as it’s used in the consumer space, which is talking about work.

What we do at Jive is we put a very rich document creation mechanism inside of the product, document storage, enterprise security. You can work inside Microsoft Office and share those documents inside of Jive, you can use modern content management storage systems like Dropbox. Most of our users don’t spend time talking about work but actually doing work inside Jive, that’s one differentiation so that the platform is much more sophisticated – it’s really designed with the enterprise workroom in mind.

There are three main distinguishing factors. First is the sophistication of the platform, the second is that we apply this technology in very specific use cases, so if you have a problem in customer service or brand loyalty, we take the core technology and apply it just to solve that problem or in corporate alignment or in marketing campaign development, or in sales, so we take this technology and push it in very specific ways.

The third thing that really is different about us is customers pay for the product because it’s a subscription product and, as we have to earn the right to re-sell to the customer, we learned how to develop business values, so when a customer deploys Jive – it makes a big transformational impact on their business. 15 percent more employee productivity, 4 percent more revenue growth, employee turnover drops by 25 percent, customer service costs drop by 9 percent.

With Chatter and the other technologies, none of those have been deployed to the extent where they actually deliver business value that is measurable, and that’s a big, big difference.

How would you measure those changes?

We actually paid somebody else to measure it. A year ago McKinsey’s think tank, or research institute, did a research project and talked to hundreds of thousands of people and businesses and their question was, what is the impact that social has, from a business perspective? They discovered that social technology can dramatically change the way people can collaborate in business, and so we went along with what our customers were telling us.

They’re paying us $100 million for our software, we’re the only company that isn’t giving this away for free. We’ve got to earn the right for customers to pay for us, so we hired someone to go study our customer base and they interviewed large and small customers and asked them to self-report on their organisations and we got really detailed answers on the time they spend on different technologies and that’s where we came up with our numbers.

The difference in that case is that we also have some very powerful analytical tools that allow a non-technical person in the organisation to measure and monitor feedback in these communities in real time. Moderation tools and measurement tools, so you know exactly what people are talking about, you know the common issues, how frequently they’re talking about something, very sophisticated ways to measure impact and effectiveness.

What support does a business receive when they sign up for Jive?

It depends on the nature of the use case, but if you’re a small company with 25-50 employees, you can go onto the Jive website and sign up for a free trial and invite everyone in the company to use it, also invite people outside the company to use it. So in that case it’s totally self-service, if you don’t want to call anybody or talk to anybody about using it you just use it and then after 30 days if you want to keep using it you can just pay for it.

The more sophisticated form is on the other extreme, you’re a 200 000 person company and want everyone in the company to start using Jive, then we have a professional services team that comes in and helps educate them on best practices, and then there are companies somewhere in the middle.

Have you noticed a bigger take-up since you’ve been on the ground here in Australia?

John Rizzo: The thing that’s interesting about where we are here is that our international footprint is the fastest growing sector of our business overall, and the market is getting to a really interesting point where we’ve learned a lot from the early adopters and we’ve now gotten to a point where we understand the use cases and the business value and we understand how to help an organisation transform.

Now is the perfect time to come to Australia because we now can go specifically to small, medium, and large companies and give them examples that we’ve done before and we have people on the ground that can help deploy these systems.

If we did that four or five years ago we wouldn’t be far enough along to know how to make these things transformational. Because it’s not just about throwing some technology into the market and seeing what happens, it’s more than just the technology.

What’s the next step in the evolution of Jive?

I think with respect to Australia it’s really about expanding our footprint in the market and getting a larger portion of the population and users inside. In general, for the company, our goal is to replace email, replace portals, replace the old way of doing business and what that means is more integrations with existing software and systems.

Mike Mrkic

Mike Mrkic

Mike Mrkic is the social web editor of Dynamic Business. He looks after our social media and web content. Mike has considerable experience in journalism and social media management working for companies like Channel V, Music Max, Sydney Star Observer and Idolator.

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