Moxie Delivers… More of the Same I’m Afraid

It’s Enterprise 2.0 conference week and that always means lots of product announcements – I got an advance briefing last week from Moxie software. Moxie (previously the software arm of nGenera) is the creator of social enterprise software for employee and customers through its Spaces product. Spaces, like a host of other enterprise collaboration products (CubeTree, Yammer, Microsoft SharePoint,  Jive, MindTouch and on, and on, and on) integrates collaboration, knowledge management and social aspects to serve up something that (they hope) will prove valuable to enterprise.

In my briefing with Moxie, I repeatedly asked for a point of differentiation that they could explain to me, and why a customer would chose them over one of the other offerings. Moxie (or at least their SVP Marketing) did a not overly compelling job by explaining that the difference lay in the approach which saw a combination of:

  • Pointers to people (think rich profiles and the like)
  • Rewards for participants (thinks badges and stuff – yawn)
  • Going where the people are (single sign on and enterprise integration)
  • A compelling UI (code for “we look like Facebook”)

None of which really answered my question – every enterprise software vendor under the sun would point out the same core tenets of their offering.

Anyway – the main thrust of the Moxie briefing was to hear about their latest release, one which they believe will bridge the gap between customer facing and employee facing solutions. I have to say that the issues Moxie raised do indeed ring true. We’re all trying to deal with the tensions between a product that provides for the internal needs of the organization, and one that shows value to outside stakeholders – I’m not convinced that anyone has really nailed this issue… so what does it look like for Moxie?

Interestingly enough, this release was designed in concert with design and innovation firm IDEO. In a previous life I had a lot to do with IDEO’s work, they really are thought leaders in the innovation space. So what impact did IDEO have on the product? Well the release is heralded as including a Knowledgebase, Integration to Major Legacy Systems Including SharePoint and MS Exchange, as well as New Features. The first two of those things is very much par for the course, so what do the new features give us? From the release:

  • An integration framework that provides pre-built integration to all major enterprise applications
  • Integration with SharePoint: Leverage SharePoint’s document repository, workflow and approval capabilities from within Employee Engagement Spaces
  • Integration with MS Exchange: Calendar synchronization and ability to email content into discussion groups
  • Enhanced Micro blogging with real-time notifications
  • Enhanced Projects: Allows employees to collaborate around projects
  • Virtual Private Cloud for companies that require a segmented/private location for their data

Hmmm – revolutionary? Not so much. Moxie gave me a demo of the solution and it looked fine. It does what one would expect of an enterprise software provider (see the screen shot below) but this isn’t revolutionary, and it’s definitely less innovative than one would expect from a collaborative project that IDEO was involved with.

moxie

Moxie actually reached the final four of the Enterprise 2.0 Launchpad… which kind of indicates the problem with launchpad events. A good video (see below) with no real substance will always beat a less polished depiction of a revolutionary offering.

Don’t get me wrong – Moxie seems a robust and fully featured product – it’s just nothing particularly new….

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14 Comments
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  • Great post. Although you called out Moxie, the same points could hold true for a number of vendors, making this more of an industry problem, in my opinion. But I’d add two caveats:

    First, any time that new technologies are judged, there will typically be a bias towards technologies that are built out and “mature” rather than those that are disruptively innovative, even from industry experts. After all, disruptive technologies, by definition, change the status quo.

    Second, the value proposition of enterprise collaboration still needs work. by describing it only as a set of features and technologies, vendors lead themselves to a commodity position where the only competition is on price, rather than value. We’ll see if collaboration vendors learn to speak the language of business rather than the language of technology, since this will be a key for 2.0 business collaboration solutions to truly cross the chasm and gain general acceptance.

  • Ben,

    It seems like you have confused our design philosophy with our point of differentiation. The points you outlined in your article, is how we have designed our Employee Engagement Spaces™ and what drives very high adoption of collaboration software.

    The differentiation we discussed during our call is outlined below:

    http://www.moxiesoft.com/tal_products/different.aspx

    • Designed “The Way People Work” – Not around tools or documents
    Employee Engagement Spaces™ was designed in collaboration with an award winning global design firm…that takes a human-centered design approach. As such, the solution is highly intuitive, providing a user experience that drives adoption with viral force.

    • Knowledgebase Integration – We are the only vendor with a fully integrated knowledgebase in both our employee and customer engagement solutions. This dramatically accelerates the co-creation and crowd-sourcing of knowledge articles beyond a few subject matter experts, and the capture and sharing of that knowledge with customers through a self-service portal.

    • Social Layer Integrated with other Legacy Systems – Large enterprises have invested in many legacy applications, such as ERP, CRM, HR and content management. We have built an integration framework that provides pre-built integration to all major enterprise applications. Employee Engagement Spaces™ is a workspace where employees collaborate, share knowledge and access data from other applications – all from within Employee Engagement Spaces™.

    • Speed and Ease of Implementation – Most social business software requires long implementation cycles (often 6-12 months) and costly professional services. Employee Engagement Spaces™ is quick and easy to deploy. Our multi-tenant Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) architecture and can easily be configured by users, without the need for costly customization by expensive professional services consultants.

    And what we announced today is over and above the capabilities outlined below, which many vendors are still trying to deliver in their roadmap.

    http://www.moxiesoft.com/tal_products/key-capabilities.aspx

    We’d be happy to spend more time with you to further expand on this.

    • Azita, thanks for your comment, I appreciate the offer to engage. Your four points of differentiation are ones that every enterprise collaboration company would claim to offer. Taking them one at a time:
      1) Designed the way people work – Socialtext, Mainsoft, PBworks and many others would contend that they’re designed the same way
      2) Knowledge base integration – not sure if I’d agree you’re the only vendor. Most vendors either have their own wiki or can integrate with a knowledge based product
      3) Social layer integration – fair(ish) comment, although I had a briefing from Socialtext last week talking about their connect option that does just this
      4) Speed and ease – if you’re comparing to traditional enterprise plays (sharepoint) perhaps, then fair enough. But if you’ve ever tried deploying Socialtext, CentralDesktop, PBworks etc you’ll know just how easy it is

      Cheers

      Ben

  • I’m not sure I always see the value in nitpicking about differentiation. Ben, by your jabs, one can easily take the same approach to any competitive offering in a market.

    What’s so different about the PC vs the Mac? Is Google that different from Yahoo?

    It all comes down to nuanced and even esoteric differences. Just use it, and you’ll see.

    I don’t know much about Moxie, but I imagine that they offer an approach that’s meaningful enough for resources to get behind.

    Until the market fully gels around the evolution of web 2.0 CRM, ERP, collaboration, and what-not — to the extent that clear market leaders emerge and consolidation follows, yawning off new offerings seems a bit myopic.

    • Nathan true, to a point… but I’ve sat in countless briefings with companies in the space who have managed to make a compelling argument for differentiation. Maybe it was an off day but the Moxie SVP didn’t do so. All products are similar, it’s dancing the messaging dance that counts….

      • Well, not to appear too “cute”, but what makes your review all that different?

        I get that differentiation is compelling, but often there seems to be too much emphasis on the differences rather than the sameness — taken to the extreme, crap products make it to the market all the time just because they’re different.

        I for one would rather see compelling offerings based deeper intuitions of workflows, human behaviors, etc. Things of that sort tend to come in the form of a Gmail — an “email” product of all things — but one that throws in attention to the things I just mentioned, rather than some bulleted (supposed) business differentiating driver.

        Anyway, my take as a reader is this piece just seems negative for negative sake. Who are you really advocating for?

        • Nathan – ouch, but to an extent your comment was justified. There’s a whole context that one gets after doing hundreds of briefings and reviews, it’s kind of “sixth sense” that gives us a gut feel about a company and product. Something that a feature comparison can’t offer. So… I’m not advocating for anyone per se, and I’m more than happy to accept that Moxie does what it says…

  • Sorry, I wasn’t trying to be mean. It’s not my way — promise.

    I’m just expressing a preference for reviews from folks that use and genuinely attempt to adopt a new technology. Otherwise, entrepreneurs, investors, and to some extent consumers fall into a cycle of dismissing some things too soon.

    I didn’t see why Facebook was so great until I tried it. I was happy with MySpace until then. Same with Google, I used Yahoo for years — what did everyone mean by “better”?

    After trying it.. even more than just a couple time… I finally saw it.

    Anyway, just my 2 cents for whatever it’s worth. Cheers.

  • Ben – As full disclosure, I am a co-founder at Moxie Software and the executive who led our deal with IDEO and its implementation. This warrants a much longer discussion and I won’t echo the points Azita already made so well.

    Also, I do agree both with Nathan’s critique of your post in the comment stream and with his point of view that usability does indeed matter a lot. Differentiation for differentiation’s sake is not useful either. What is important is whether the product uniquely meet the needs of the users and whether it delivers on a value proposition to make it truly valuable to the customer.

    We collaborated with IDEO exactly because we saw and heard from customers that the existing tools being offered in Enterprise 2.0 were not meeting their needs nor delivering value. Adoption is critical – Facebook is Facebook because if figured out how to create an experience that drive 500 Million users to their service despite having the same features as a lot of other social networks. And in this new era of enterprise software, usability and user experience not only matters, it is vital – without it, the software is useless because the users will not use it, thus sharing is moot. Aaron Levie, the founder of Box.net does an eloquent job of describing why here (http://tcrn.ch/cbkC6D). It’s worth a read.

    What Moxie’s Employee Engagement Spaces does, and the innovation IDEO brought, is provide a user centric architecture to the solution – this hides the complexity and power of the product when it is not needed, but brings the full power of each tool to the front when it is needed, all at the user’s discretion. The product was designed and built around this among many other things.

    Usability drives adoption. For adoption to sustain and grow, it requires scalability of the user experience design. The user centric architecture provided by IDEO enables both the adoption and the scale – to scale to an enterprise that is global, with hundreds of thousands of users, across multiple geographies, across multiple business units and departments, while making the product more valuable, not less. Your dismissive comment about IDEO’s involvement and impact suggests an ignorance of and lack of experience with what it actually takes to successfully coordinate work in large global enterprises.

    This is no trivial task as anyone who has spent time in operating roles at large global companies can attest. It’s also the reason why we are drowning today in email and documents, and past attempts at “knowledge management” have repeatedly failed.

    In closing, we have many customers on Spaces. In this market, no one company appears to be deployed on one platform (Jive, Moxie or SharePoint) enterprise-wide for global collaboration yet. Most, if not all companies are using multiple vendors. One of our customers – a customer that is global and among the world’s largest – has put Moxie head to head against a top competitor of ours (they use both of us), walked through each use case they had one at a time and concluded that Moxie’s experience was far superior for getting the job done. I doubt anyone will go on the record with a comment like that at this stage of the market, but I can assure you it is not BS. The “proof will be in the pudding” as they say, and in the end results will matter.

    This industry is clouded by me-too language of features (blogs, wikis, etc.) and high-level fluff like “we are user centric”, and your frustration is understandable – everything sounds the same, so how to tell who has it right? What really matters is will the software help people get their jobs done faster, and better than ever before, and can it scale to global large enterprise use cases with elegance.

    Ultimately the users, not the pundits or the enterprise IT departments, will vote on this, and the winning vendors will get the enterprise-wide global deals.

    • Brian – many thanks for your comment and I’m sorry that I’m heading out on vacation and unable to give it the full reply it deserves. I take your points and congratulate you on both your willingness to engage and the advocates you obviously have among your users.

  • @benkepes Actually, I wrote that post on Moxie =)

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