Today Jive Software and Cisco announced a strategic partnership that will see Cisco becoming a reseller of Jive’s social collaboration solutions, as well as a joint go-to-market strategy and a commitment to extending the level of integration between the two vendors’ products. In a move designed to give both companies a leg-up in their battle against the global dominance of Microsoft and IBM in the enterprise collaboration space, the partnership offers some interesting insight into the challenges the two companies are facing in this market and, while perhaps unexpected, I think it is a highly sensible strategy for both.
So what’s in it for Jive and Cisco? For Jive—which has been steadily building its profile and customer base, and extending its geographic reach outside the US over the last few years—the challenge has been how to build its presence more quickly and more widely, and the answer is clearly the channel. Jive has had good success with its global partnership with PwC, and has been looking for an equivalent partner in the vendor space that could help it compete on a par with IBM and Microsoft, both in terms of the breadth of technology offering, and also in breadth of geographic presence. Cisco, in turn, has been struggling with the challenge of how to sell into the social collaboration space for a few years now. It’s had a decent technology offering in the form of Webex Social (formerly Quad), but has never got to grips with how to sell it; the IT-focused approach it is familiar with through Cisco’s traditional sales operations just didn’t cut it. The company needed an established, best-of-breed partner that it could work with to understand who the audience is, and how to sell to them. So now Cisco is finally abandoning WebEx Social, and moving forward with Jive as its preferred social collaboration solution and partner, and Jive has a large, global technology and services partner who also happens to have a rather complementary set of technologies in the communications and call centre space. Bingo.
From my early conversations with Jive on the news, it’s clear that both companies see huge potential in this relationship; while the long-term opportunities have yet to be finalised, the starting point—which focuses around use cases where Cisco and Jive are already well-established, namely call centre + external communities/internal communities—in itself offers a wealth of cross-selling potential among both companies’ existing customers, nevermind the new business opportunity. Interestingly, there aren’t too many existing shared customers—high profile exceptions include the likes of Thomson Reuters and Nike—but Jive is particularly bullish about the size of its pipeline from cross-selling to Cisco’s Contact Centre, Webex Meetings and Jabber instant messaging customers. The Jive team have been working closely with Cisco’s services organisation and also its implementation partners, and this seems to be the starting point for this joint sales venture.
With such a technology-oriented partnership, the question of integration is absolutely key, and we’re starting to see some strategy and details emerge about what we can expect here. There is already a certain degree of integration between the two sets of offerings, with the ability to (for example) schedule Cisco meetings from Jive in a single click, as well as presence integration and the storing of voicemail transcripts in the Jive inbox or a group. Going forward, the plan is to focus the integration strategy on enabling context sharing between the two environments, for example using analytics and knowledge of the user’s previous click path to suggest experts or potential actions. I’ll share more on this down the line as more clarity emerges from the vendors.
It’s worth mentioning the most significant area of overlap between the two, which is the web conferencing technology that Jive acquired through its purchase of Meetings.io in late 2012. The Jive-d version of the technology is currently in beta, and is expected to be released later in 2014, however the team is already working closely with Cisco’s people, to enable the Webex Meetings capability to be snapped into the Jive environment instead of Meetings.io if required.
Overall, I think it’s an interesting move for both companies, and has the potential to be a very successful partnership. If it is, the question will inevitably arise as to whether Cisco should acquire Jive (in fact the rumours are already floating around the Twittersphere), particularly given the news that Jive has been looking around for a sale. I did bring the subject up in my conversations with Jive, and I was told that it’s not on the table at the moment. For now, Jive’s doing a pretty good job of growing its profile and market share, being a long way ahead of its independent competitors in this space, and if it can execute well on this partnership, its enterprise-level credibility can only grow further.
I’ve written in depth about Jive’s social collaboration strategy in my vendor analysis report here.