RightNow’s Acquisition of HiveLive: Industry Implications
My first day back from vacation was a very busy one with RightNow’s announcement on Tuesday that they had acquired social platform vendor HiveLive. I can’t remember the last time I had this many calls and emails from the press and other industry folks about an announcement, and it is no surprise: this is big news. Why? Not only did RightNow show the importance of communities as an emerging customer channel with this transaction, they also paved the way for a new round of industry consolidation–today’s end to end customer service platform must include community features.
I remember attending a regional RightNow user conference in Santa Clara a few years back, and I had an opportunity to spend time with Greg Gianforte, RightNow’s CEO, before the general session. This was in the early days of Web 2.0, and none of the customer service/CRM vendors had a community strategy yet in place. Greg said customer demand for discussion forums was just beginning. Then we walked into the general session, and there was an uproar from the audience pushing for community features in an upcoming release.
Perhaps because RightNow is a pure SaaS product its customers were ahead of Web 2.0 curve. But I had not seen a group of customers demanding so much so early, and I think this user conference played a role in RightNow’s early selection of Lithium as a community partner and building a really tight integration that defined what “best of breed” integration between self-service knowledgebases and communities should be.
By bringing a full community solution in-house, RightNow is again ahead of the Web 2.0 curve for customer service and CRM vendors. This acquisition has large implications for our industry, including:
- Partnering is not enough. Companies may buy one channel at a time, but they shop for a vendor that can support all their channels down the road. By adding ‘best of breed’ community capabilities as part of their customer service and knowledge management (CS and KM) platform, RightNow has set a standard for end-to-end channel support including communities. Their CS competitors who have relied on loose “Barney” partnerships for communities, or who have developed low-end community features as a stop-gap measure, will have to up their game. And for the CS/KM vendors who don’t even have a community strategy in place, you are really behind the 8 ball now.
- Beyond search integration, to process integration. Companies struggling with community and social networking today are being stymied by process, not technology. For example, how do you begin involving customers in content creation without losing control? RightNow knows the search and data integration points between CS, KM and communities, but what about process integration? How do you transition struggling community users to assisted support? How do you automate taking popular forum content and instantiating it into a knowledgebase? Creating process integration between these two worlds provides ample room for innovation, and I expect we will see some early examples from RightNow and HiveLive by the end of the year.
- Consolidation begins…again. Let’s face it, there are an over abundance of vendors offering customer service, knowledgebase, intelligent searching, and social networking. With much of the functionality maturing, there is less differentiation between products than ever before: most, if not all, can solve your business problems. Between big CRM vendors (Oracle, SAP, Consona, Netsuite, FrontRange, Epicor, Chordiant, etc.), the CS/KM/search vendors (KANA, nGenera, Consona, eGain, RightNow, InQuira, Q-go, noHold, etc.), the community vendors (Jive, Lithium, SocialText, WetPaint), and the new breed of CS/community vendors (Fuze, Helpstream, Parature), there is a tremendous overlap of functionality, with too many vendors competing for each deal, and discounting driving down profitability. I forsee a great deal of consolidation in the months to come.
What do you think? How important is pre-integrated KM/CS and community? Who did invent knowledge in a cloud? Please add a comment or drop me an email. And as always, thanks for reading!