Recently, I published a report about a small software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor, Dimdim, which is having success in the crowded Web conferencing market. Like many small vendors, Dimdim provides a free service tier, generously allowing up to 20 participants into the free meeting, to help drum up business. The report, though, did not simply highlight the number of users that Dimdim has captured in four short years of existence -- over 5 million -- but also its success in attracting partners like Intuit, Novell and Nortel CVAS. Why? For new vendors entering crowded markets, attracting partners is vital for two reasons:
Partners open doors to new markets. In crowded markets, incumbent vendors and new entrants jostle to serve customer needs. For the new entrants, the customers that can be wrangled through media hype and analyst buzz is minimal. Mass appeal comes from firms with strong working relationships with a range of buyers in a number of markets -- e.g., oil & gas, healthcare, government -- embracing a small vendor's offering and introducing it to their clients.
Two recent articles from The New York Times illustrate why, for innovation to work, you need to keep updating your playbook.
Serious Games And Biochemical Research
When a team of researchers at the University of Washington wanted to unlock the puzzle of protein folding – a complex process that moves faster than we can observe – they decided to crowdsource the investigation. The team posed the question as a serious game, a medium that sometimes produces better answers than what people normally envision as the process of crowdsourcing.
Instead of just throwing out the question (How do our bodies build these proteins?) to an anonymous audience that may or may not have been motivated to answer it, the researchers built a game, Foldit, that simulated the protein-building process. The motivations were no different than any game: the satisfaction of beating the game at some level; the score that both rewards you for your current level of accomplishment and dares you to do better; the public standings that inject another level of competition beyond beating your last score. Humans can be very competitive creatures, even when the only rewards are intangible, which is why certain types of serious games often stimulate more participation than other approaches to a problem. (Check out the book Drive by Daniel Pink for one explanation of this behavior.)
Our new book, Empowered, will be in book stores on September 14. But for a real-world conversation about what it means to unleash employees to solve customer problems using readily available technology, come to our Content & Collaboration Forum in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C. on October 7 and 8.
Yes, this is a pitch to come to a Forrester event, but I promise you that it will be worth your time if you're looking for help with such Empowered topics as enterprise social, empowered employees, iPad in the enterprise, innovation, collaboration in the cloud, videoconferencing, and IT consumerization as well as deep dives into critical topics like search and taxonomy, enterprise content management, and what it means to be a content & collaboration leader.
You'll get two days of my Forrester analyst colleagues' presentations and face time as well as keynote presentations from some great and experienced content & collaboration executives. GM's Steve Sacho is way ahead of the curve in understanding how to turn consumerization from IT threat to business opportunity. Richard West of the defense firm, BAE Systems, is bringing his story of how investments in knowledge management and collaboration have empowered employees to work more efficiently together to solve customer problems. Both speakers as well as Zach Brand, head of all things interesting at NPR Digital Media (yes, that NPR), will share their stories, lessons, and experience.
Today (August 9, 2010) Microsoft and Polycom made public their future-looking plans to continue to work together to develop and deliver unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions. The two companies have worked together for some time in the UC&C market, for example:
Polycom has long designed and sold universal serial bus (USB) and voice over IP (VoIP) phones tuned for Microsoft’s Office Communications Server (OCS) server.
Anyone familiar with social technologies will remember the launch of Google Wave in the fall of 2009. It was a new kind of communication platform released into a beta test with 100,000 invitations sent out. Google’s strategy in limiting the rollout was designed not to overload the architecture (and perhaps to create a sense of scarcity, which it did very well). Google also wanted to develop the platform experientially based on user feedback. However, on Wednesday Google announced it was pulling the plug on Wave. Eric Schmidt tried to put a positive spin on it, describing Wave as a failed experiment that was also a learning experience. And there are certainly some lessons that can be applied to the rollout of enterprise social platforms.
Numbers Matter – Develop A Strategy For Rapid Adoption