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Open Enterprise 2009: Interview with J.B. Holston, Newsgator

A few weeks ago, during a busy two weeks in Europe, I interviewed J.B. Holston, the CEO of Newsgator. Despite the slight fuzziness of the video (I think J.B. needs to spring for a better webcam), his thinking was pretty sharp. A few highlights:

  • Newsgator has interated aggressively since last summer's E 2.0 conference, where the SocialSites product was one of the finalists in the Launchpad.
  • Newsgator has been focusing increasingly on integrated applications, making the company oriented more toward a platform strategy.
  • The economy has had an impact on many segments that have been strong for the company, like financial services. However, even in that sector, there is a 'harder times, so drive faster' attitude that is leading to fast uptake in some companies.
  • Large companies are finding it essential to integrate groups across the company, and also in the face of mergers and acquisitions they need low-cost, quick turn-on applications to achieve integration.
  • As the world has come to see inherently more risky, companies seem to willing to accept more risk. J.B. sees less of the extended bake-offs testing and evaluating alternatives, perhaps because Web 2.0 deployments are so much smaller than SAP, for example.
  • One client, with 150K seats worldwide, approximately 50% in each of two large organizations that have merged. One of the two sides had been deploying Newsgator's SocialSites, but now they are accelerating that across both sides so that they will have a means to coordinate and collaborate right away. The ROI is obvious, immediate, and large.
  • Newsgator seems to be more of a top-down adoption model, although the consumer products have established a brand awareness in the minds of users. Executive management is essential to the roll-out for large deployments like Newsgators, J.B. confirms.
  • J.B. agrees that large deployments in multinational organization encounter all sorts of cultural and Cultural issues -- meaning corporate and real-world cultural barriers to understanding. He goes into some detail about legal issues with privacy in various countries, as well as the importance of community managers within companies adopting these tools.
J.B.'s insights confirm many of our findings: management leadership is essential, community must be nutured, and hard times lead to strong incentives for adoption of high payoff solutions. He made a great comment, that "these are still early days, and there is no unified field theory that everyone agrees to about how to drive adoption." Couldn't have said it better myself, although Oliver and I hope to turn the corner on that problem, at least, as we jump into the case study side of our research this month.

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