Wednesday, May 28, 2014

3 Strategic Tips to Unleash the Power of Self-Service Business Intelligence Tools

This is a guest post by TrustRadius member, Robert Goodman, Director of Business Intelligence and Analytics at Georgetown University. Since joining TrustRadius last October, Robert has reviewed  Microsoft BI,  IBM Cognos, Workday and 8 other products. He is one of our top user experts in the Business Intelligence category. 

Traditional reporting tools are primarily a product of the past.  Sure, some of these tools have a nice application for operational reporting needs. But we’re seeing more frequently that many of these operational reporting features are being built into ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems directly.

With the growth in computing power, ERP systems can often handle the operational reporting load and therefore do not require separate reporting systems for operational needs.  This may not be the case with larger organizations.

Take Workday for example.  This product has fantastic reporting capabilities built into the ERP directly.  Both the reports and the product are SaaS-based and available from a standard web browser.  Workday offers drillable displays that are contextual and actionable.  Additionally, the product provides real-time operational intelligence by cross-walking data sets that reside within the Workday platform.  This is a good example of some of the sophistication – and general ‘goodness’ - that is happening in the ERP world.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Battle for Enterprise Social Media Management Software Part 2 – Catching Up with Spredfast CEO Rod Favaron

Executive Interview Series by Vinay Bhagat, CEO TrustRadius

As discussed in the first article in this series, a number of very well-funded companies are competing for the enterprise social media management spend and Spredfast is one of them. I had a chance to sit down with Spredfast CEO, Rod Favaron to get an update on their business and recent merger.

Rod and his team have had a very busy start to 2014. On January 3rd, Spredfast announced $32.5m in series D funding bringing their total funds raised to $64m. On April 2nd, Spredfast merged with social curation software company, Mass Relevance.

Context for Mass Relevance Merger

Sharing Austin as a headquarters, Rod and Sam Decker, CEO of Mass Relevance, talked quite regularly. As Rod shared in our interview, “The more we talked, the more we saw the inevitability of our platforms coming together. Up until now our products have been very complimentary with no overlapping functionality, but we were starting to see connection points”.

Furthermore, Spredfast increasingly believes that the winning approach within the enterprise is an integrated social suite, “With the merger we’ve signaled our desire to compete on a wider platform footprint.”
Today there is limited customer overlap, but they see opportunity for cross-sell. “Today, of the 9k targets we see for our software in North America, we have a combined 600 customers. We talked to 20 joint customers and there seemed to be some interesting engagement points.”

Both products are favorably rated on TrustRadius. Spredfast achieves an 8.0/10 likelihood to recommend score across 27 end-user reviews, and Mass Relevance an 8.5/10, though with just two data points currently.

First new integrated product – Spark

Spredfast announced a new product called Spark on May 15th. It is the merged company’s first new product that leverages both platforms. Spark is a discovery tool which helps a business monitor and respond to real-time trends. Spark had been in development by Mass Relevance prior to the merger. Mass Relevance has a direct feed from Twitter and found that the same technology they had developed for curation and display, which has the ability to ingest a huge amount of data and apply rules, could be repurposed for real time insights and trend discovery. Spark supports trend discovery on a category or geographic basis.

Spark works by using the core Mass Relevance platform (now rebranded Spredfast Experiences) to do trending content discovery and passes that trending content to the core Spredfast Platform (now rebranded Spredfast Conversations) to enable engagement around it. The initial release of Spark focuses on Twitter but Spredfast plans to support other networks.

Spark is not positioned as a listening platform and Spredfast will maintain its partnership with listening software vendor Brandwatch. Per Rod, “Listening platforms have many different uses. Spark is focused on empowering discovery in the moment.”

Speaking to the typical use cases for Spark, Rod shared, “If you’re a brand, you have tent pole events throughout the year (e.g. Back to School) for which you have long lead times to plan around. We’ve historically handled those types of events really well in Spredfast.  However, there’s opportunity between those tent pole events to discover social conversations on the web that you can insert your brand into. If you’re Cheerios, how do you discover content about families eating breakfast together? Spark gives you the ability to find nuggets that fit your brand promise. It enables you to discover and insert your message in the right sort of way. If you are a media company like ESPN, Spark helps you decide what stories to lead with.”

Product Integration Plans

There is no current plan for a fully unified code base or user interface. The focus is surgical integrations to support key processes and single sign-on. They have identified five such processes including Spark. Both platforms were built with a similar stack. Both are run on Amazon and use the same database.

Use of Series D Proceeds

The recent financing will be applied towards go to market expansion and product development. Spredfast still sees a lot of opportunity in North America but has been expanding internationally. Spredfast has combined their UK office with Mass Relevance, are hiring aggressively to support growth in Western Europe, and have opened an office in Sydney. “We now have users in eighty countries and twenty percent of our business is outside the US.”

One product development area that reviews on TrustRadius indicate warrants further investment is user interface. While early reviewers were quite critical of the interface, more recent reviews indicate that it has greatly improved but would still like to see enhancements including better mobile support.  Another area cited as an area for improvement is supporting more integration to other systems to support analytics. To quote one review “I actually don’t think the tool does anything “poorly” but I do see opportunities for the tool to become integrated in more enterprise level systems, such as community platforms (Jive) and web analytics tools (Google Analytics, Omniture, NetInsights). There’s a lot of opportunity to break down siloes of information and processes by becoming integrated with any of these tools

Competing with Large Enterprise Software Companies

Spredfast believes that pure play social vendors are keeping pace with the rapidly evolving social landscape much more effectively than the large enterprise software companies like Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce, but acknowledges that those companies have a lot of mindshare in the enterprise.

Rod stated, “We think the market needs an independent social first platform and that the market is evolving from a point to suite based solution. The big vendors are not doing the right things. They have either bought the wrong things or not been able to innovate fast enough. In social, product innovation is occurring at 100 miles/ hour”.

There is supporting evidence on TrustRadius that the larger software companies have failed to keep pace. For example, one user shared “What was once a great tool, now feels neglected and unloved” when reviewing Radian6, acquired by Salesforce.

Competing with Pure Play Social Media Management Software Companies

Sprinklr is Spredfast’s most direct competitor as another pure play social vendor with a suite offering squarely focused on the enterprise. Speaking to their differences, Rod shared “we have chosen different product paths. By merging with Mass Relevance, we are expanding our suite to include content and screening, and are connecting social with digital display. Connecting brands with media is very unique. Our focus is looking to the future of marketing.”

When asked specifically about Sprinklr’s newly launched paid media offering, Rod responded, “We have done paid media for a year, however it only supports content created within Spredfast.”

While planning to further broaden its suite, Spredfast acknowledges it cannot encompass everything and needs to integrate to other social solutions. “We are open towards the listening community and the ad platform community. Even though it’s a suite, it doesn’t solve everything. We have chosen to pursue the elements we consider most important to be unified”.

As discussed in part 1, Hootsuite raised $165m in 2013 and has been aggressively expanding into the enterprise. Spredfast downplays Hootsuite’s competitive threat. “Hootsuite is doing a great job everywhere but the enterprise. It takes a different product and DNA to compete there. We do not see them competitively in the enterprise.”  On TrustRadius, 37.5% of Hootsuite Enterprise reviews are from people at companies with more than 500 employees, though it’s not evident whether implementations are enterprise wide or just departmental.

Helping Customers Succeed

While the social marketplace has matured significantly, the number of people with deep experience is still limited. Rod stated, “Three years of social experience is about as much as people have. The market has matured a lot and the teams out in the marketplace are deeper, but it’s not formulaic yet like email.” 
Spredfast emphasizes their focus on customer success as a differentiator, “We get high marks for making customers successful. The product is an important part, but know-how and support and training are often the difference between success and failure.”

Closing Thoughts

Historically the social media management space has experienced a lot of churn among products, coupled with significant M&A activity. These factors have all been quite disruptive for companies. Rod emphasizes, “This is a journey. If you’re running social at a big brand or media company, you need to pick partners who have some width and depth and share a vision of where you see social is going. It’s a fast moving market. Pick partners who see the market the same way you do. Social networks are not standing still. You want to pick someone who’s keeping up with that. It’s a very fast paced market. Every quarter there are new content opportunities.”

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Battle for Enterprise Social Media Management Software: Part 1 – Sprinklr Raises $40m and Announces Paid Media Platform

Executive interview series by Vinay Bhagat, CEO TrustRadius

Battle Intensifies with $250m Raised in Last 12 Months

On April 29th, Social Media Management software company Sprinklr announced $40m in financing from Iconiq Capital, a firm which manages assets for some high profile technology executives, bringing their total funds raised to $77.5 million. In the last 12 months, three social media software companies targeting the enterprise have raised close to $250 million. Spredfast raised $32.5m on January 3rd. Hootsuite raised $165m in August 2013. These figures exclude the internal investments made by large software companies like Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle in their acquired social media management solutions.

Enterprise Suites Expand Organically and via Acquisition

As we discussed in our Buyer’s Guide to Social Media Management and blog post, “Social Media Management in Large Enterprises”, many large enterprises have unique needs including the ability to manage cross-functional coordination. Sprinklr and several of its competitors are adding capabilities historically offered by point solutions either organically or via acquisition.

With their funding, Sprinklr announced the launch of a paid media platform, to help companies deploy and measure the performance of paid media ads. This product is designed to compete with solutions like Kenshoo. This announcement follows on the heels of their acquisition of the Dachis Group on February 19th, which brought product capabilities for brand analytics, social governance, employee advocacy and content optimization, as well as an expanded strategy and services team.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

5 Fabulous Reviews to Celebrate As We Turn One

Every month, we publish hundreds of in-depth reviews to help 75,000+ software buyers who visit our site make better technology selection, implementation and usage decisions.

Today, as we celebrate the publication of our 3,500th review one year to the day after we opened TrustRadius to the public, we are especially grateful to the thousands of software users who've joined our community to share their knowledge with their peers.

We are also proud to present 5 recent reviewers who have impressed us by the depth and quality of the insights provided:

By Stephanie Dozier Business Data Analyst at Centex Systems Support Services

"Pentaho provides quick access to the data and reports are clean and professional. The Data Integration tool is without question the best tool in the set. You can transform virtually any text file, Excel file or script into a table, spreadsheet or even report" - read more

Qualtrics: Great functionality and ease of use at a reasonable price
By Ben Lawder Vice President | Market Insights at ADP

"Qualtrics has a great UI and is very easy to learn and use. Reporting was hard to navigate, but they are working on a new solution. It's a great fit for organizations looking for a reasonably priced in-house market research platform" - read more

SmartSheet: Makes us smarter!

By Kate Goldberg - Director of Advancement Services at Washington College

"Easy to build forms that can be hyperlinked so end users don't need an account. The product provides email notifications about changes and allows me to track attachment versions. Search is great, and the integration with Excel has been a huge time saver" - read more

Bigcommerce: The Popular Ecommerce System Your Web Developer Might Not Be Telling You About
By Danny Leary, Front End Web Developer at Shout Out Advertising

"If you are a store owner who wants to develop an online presence, has over a certain number of products and plans on having genuine growth and traffic, the worry-free opportunity Bigcommerce presents is a very smart decision over other saas shopping carts or self-hosted ones" - read more

"If an organization wants an easy-to-use, intuitive, configurable system that improves constantly and is focused more on the business user than the technologist, Workday is ideal. The difference between Workday and a more traditional ERP can be thought of as the difference between an iphone and a central switchboard." - read more

As always, make sure to check our latest business software reviews or even better, share your own software expertise with our community to help others make more informed decisions and bring transparency to the opaque world of business software.