It is an amazing time of change in the computer industry. The convergence of the media on the Internet, computing in the cloud, the growth of open source and the move to a more collaborative business environment all bring much uncertainty, but also great opportunities. All this change is creating a flux of new industry suppliers, large and small, who are all vying for the attention of new potential clients.
Jive Software and Atlassian are two firms that are being surrounded by a swarm of new start-ups and the big enterprise vendors. These pure play software manufactures have slightly different products, Atlassian with Wiki’s and Jive with an integrated social suite. Both firms have a comparable history and are now of a similar size and face the same competitive challenges. With all this frenzied market activity I’m interested in understanding their marketing strategies and outlook for the future. I met with both of the firm’s marketers at the Boston conference to understand more.
The President of Atlassian, Jeffery Walker (RadioWalker, blog) is a well liked veteran of the computer industry. Atlassian have a very strong market specialization with their developer wiki products and a large user base. Over and over we met and heard from many Atlassian users at the conference. Jeffery is very bullish about Wiki growth for Atlassian saying that ‘Enterprise 2.0 is already in the mainstream’. I disagree and think we are not there, just yet. Sam Lawrence (Go Big Always, blog), the likeable energetic marketer from Jive, felt that the market is moving towards the mainstream through increasing ‘market awareness’.
Atlassian is using a soft sales approach to market their products, with a ‘try before buy’ attitude, relying on referrals and product quality for the product to sell itself. They see themselves as being transparent rather than having a pushy sales force. It seems Atlassian avoid overselling and under delivering their products. Sam felt Jive’s uniqueness came from their employees ‘strong enterprise knowledge and experience’. It was evident that both firms are focused on understanding their customer’s needs and delivering on expectations.
When asked what effect IBM/Microsoft will have entering Enterprise 2.0 market Jeffery felt that IBM will be a force and that both vendors had the ability to ‘Flatten earth’ through Commoditization. Interestingly he also thought that ‘Open source is going to get much bigger’. Jeffery believes that the pure play vendors need to sell more than just one product, and must have a market leading product to survive the challenge of new vendors entering this space. Sam felt that customers had lost trust in some of the larger vendors and are now looking for ‘working product’s’. Interestingly, both marketers have the view that products must live up to there expectations.
Finally, Jeffery felt that the further international expansion of Atlassian and operating in today’s volatile market are major future challenges for Atlassian. For Sam the big challenges are to make sure that Jive continues to be ‘part of the conversation’. This is a challenge for any smaller firm in a growing and changing market. Of course it is Sam’s job to be heard and he seems to have the ability to stir things up through his provocative marketing voice. The other challenge Sam referred to was in packaging Jive’s products to solve specific problems rather than being a solution looking for a problem.
I think the challenges and changes created by a swarm of new suppliers including the powerful enterprise vendors are the growing pains of an early market with great potential. Today the Enterprise 2.0 market boundaries and products are still emerging and remain unclear. These discussions have reinforced my view of the changing nature of customer expectations from vendors. IT vendors increasingly need to deliver on their product sales and marketing promises rather than rely on marketshare and power.