This product review is based on my recent test drive of Jive 5, the newest major release of market leader Jive Software‘s online community platform. Putting my online community strategist hat on, I was in geek heaven for a week in a sandbox environment of Jive 5 with full administrator permissions.
While platform selection comes last in a POST-based implementation of a social business initiative, Jive 5 makes such huge strides overcoming technology obstacles to adoption of community platforms that when it comes to the technology selection stage in your implementation, you might want to consider Jive 5 first. Gartner just did in its most recent Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Social CRM software. Jive 5 has lots of innovation and very few areas for improvement (and those I saw are principally in the area of using live streaming online events as a content engagement strategy for online communities — an edge case, but in my opinion an important one).
My Jive 5 Test-Drive Take-Aways:
Jive 5′s radical UX redesign cuts activity streams down to what matters in business and helps community members get more done. Enterprise social software grows up. Jive 5 introduces a re-engineered and more efficient social UX that addresses end-user complaints about irrelevant, off-topic status updates and feed posts clogging and reducing the value of activity streams in enterprise social software.
Addressing these user turn-offs is another sign enterprise social software is growing up and raises the bar for competitors. Early community platforms adopted a flawed premise that feed posts should be hard-coded to go out to the entire membership, so that “everyone can dogpile on the issue and get it resolved faster”. In practice it turns out not everyone wants to dogpile on everyone else’s issues. Neither does everyone want to fossick through everyone else’s trivial status updates like “Good morning!” or “Go Jets!” before finding updates vital to their work.
Jive 5 introduces simple, powerful filtering tools that cut down activity streams to what you’re working on or interested in. You can view a stream of only people/documents/groups/content that you’re following. You can view only posts in which you are personally @mentioned — consider it your social inbox that prevents these vital items from being washed down the stream and escaping your notice.
You can further clean up your stream by clicking to hide posts that strike you as irrelevant to your day’s work. Want to view them later? They’re automatically placed into a “Hidden” tab where you can view them if you have time or unhide them. Or you can view an algorithmic “Matters Most” slice of your activity streams.
Jive 5′s newly redesigned activity streams (dubbed “What Matters” streams) also are further cross-divided into “Activity” (including content, likes, follows, ideas, questions), “Communications” (status updates), and “Actions” (projects, task assignments, required action alerts) — more social tools to filter, sort, and get things done.
If users only have time to login and see what’s new since their last visit, Jive 5 gives intuitive visual cues on the number of new feed-posts in your filtered streams so you can go directly to them and view only the newest comments or content additions. Individual feed-posts can be expanded to display inline previews to discover and interact with new social activity around a feed post without leaving the activity stream page — again reducing clicks, saving time, adding efficiency and increasing engagement.
Algorithmic “Trending People” and “Trending Content” widgets further ensure that you don’t miss what matters.
Taken as a whole, think of these stream-filtering options like the enterprise social software analog of the TweetDeck capability to search for users or keywords within a filtered column. No wonder Twitter bought TweetDeck — instant relevance. Of course, you can always view all activity from the community for any activity stream (“All”) and drink from the firehouse if you really want to.
In practical use, this means users working collaboratively on a project or a shared piece of content can knife directly to the social updates that are pertinent to it. They’ll also instantly surface any member-generated content or discussion that is relevant to it, drawing problem-solving knowledge from the entire community faster. Combined with Discussions, Groups, and Spaces (sub-communities within your community) which also topically focus discussion and content for easier discovery, Jive’s new stream-filtering is a game-changer for organizations who want to launch a successful social business initiative, unlocking the power of member knowledge sharing with more relevance and focus.
New “Create” element in main navigation addresses community managers’ complaint that it’s hard to get community members to contribute content and ideas. Jive 5′s UX promotes the task-path to add ideas or content to the community directly into the community’s main navigation bar. This inspired stroke of innovation of adding “Create” to such a high level in the user experience raises user-generated content to top-level visibility and reduces the steps required to add content or ideas to a two-click operation. The “Create” element in main nav should dramatically reduce the user-abandonment that occurs when users have to poke around a traditional community site trying and failing to find the right group or space to place content into before they can contribute something vital.
“Flippable” people search/browse results let you follow, message, and start discussion with people without leaving the people search results or browse results page. Jive 5 makes it easier to make connections and build up activity streams of followed people by redesigning people search results and browsing results to be “flippable”, exposing follow, message and start discussion actions without leaving the results page.
Each people search or browse result is a like a card with a UI element to flip it over and engage directly with the person via these social actions. Notice that Curtis Frandsen in the image above has been flipped so I can quickly follow him without leaving the people browse results page. Of course, you can click the person directly to leave the results page and view their complete profile page. But surfacing social connections higher in the UX should result in more follows, messages and discussions and positively impact a new user’s satisfaction with the community platform.
Faceted Search helps users pinpoint experts in the community, relevant content and places faster. The chief navigation mechanism on social software platforms is still search, and Jive 5 slices search results into four views to get users what they’re looking for faster. The facets are: content, people, places, and all. People search or browse results can be filtered to show all, users you follow, users who are following you, users you’ve recently viewed, users recommended to you by Jive Genius (a Netflix-like recommendation engine), or users related to you in an org chart. Jive claims to be the only community platform with faceted search.
“Ideation” feature streamlines member idea submission and member voting on ideas to surface the best member-generated ideas that can help drive your business. As a Jive administrator, you can activate “Ideation” which allows members of the community to contribute ideas and to vote on the ideas of others, producing a real-time tally of top ideas ready to harvest and help drive your business.
Simple, intuitive admin capabilities for your community, including drag-and-drop widget layouts. No two communities are alike, and matching the social platform functionality that you configure with the unique needs of your target members (and with your business goals) is critical. That’s why Jive has learned to take care to include a strategic consulting team in its sales and implementation process. After working with stakeholders in the community to determine what social interaction types are desired among members, Jive consultants use their empirical data on which widgets drive the desired behaviors to produce a “community blueprint”. This includes the admin configuration and set-up of your Jive community.
To be sure, setting up page layouts, widget configurations, activity streams, private-branded look-and-feel, user permissions, groups, content, etc. may be something you do as a mainly once-and-done process before the launch of your community. But Jive 5 makes it extremely easy.
Each page is editable with drag-and-drop controls that let you browse a robust category-based widget library and simply drag the widget onto your page. Widget categories include content, places, people and other. Each category contains a robust menu of widgets. For example, the “content” category includes: featured content, latest poll, popular blog posts, popular content, popular tags, popular videos, recent activity, recent blog posts, recent content, recent ideas, recent videos, top ideas, top liked content, top rated content, unanswered questions. People, places and other widget categories also contain a robust menu of selections. Once a widget has been added to a page, it can be dragged to a different position, much like the widgets in iGoogle, or it can be further configured, or deleted.
The admin console in Jive 5 is very intuitive and lets a community admin control settings, content and users in a variety of areas including system, spaces, blogs, people, permissions, reporting, apps, ideas, and mobile.
To be sure, more advanced Jive implementations like that by CSC go so far as to hire full-time Jive Engineers to continually customize their platform for unique community engagement needs. It’s good to know Jive is so customizable. But the core admin capabilities are great.
Jive Apps Market Integration. Jive has been successful in establishing its technology as a platform that software partners will build apps for. This powerfully extends what Jive can do beyond its baseline functionality. Box.net, Atlassian Jira, Sharepoint Lists, and Tungle are just a few of dozens of apps in the Jive Apps Market. In Jive Five, apps from the Apps Market can be purchased and added directly from the Jive community platform UX. Jive also offers the ability for organizations to create their own Jive App Market populated by custom Jive Apps they create.
Document Collaboration. Community members can import or create documents in Jive and collaboratively edit them to get work done faster. Jive’s document collaboration doesn’t work like Google Docs or Zoho (where multiple users can literally edit the same document during the same work session, rapidly locking and unlocking it in succession to make real-time edits). While the Google Docs collaboration model is cool, Jive document collaboration is more formal and in line with the way people use Microsoft Office. Edits can be made to a document by those authorized to edit it. But the edits are made one at a time by individual users in individual sessions with the document — not in real-time, multi-user group collaboration sessions.
Projects and Tasks. Basecamp it’s not. But Jive 5′s projects and tasks functionality is a serious enterprise toolset that lets your community members do project management and task-management within the community platform. It features task assignments, milestones/checkpoints, reminder alerts, project calendars, and of course social discussion, documents, and other content assets related to the project.
Think of the number of “One-Click-Meetings” on Webex that you launch from Outlook. Jive 5′s Outlook integration wasn’t exposed in the sandbox environment I tested. But the idea behind Jive’s acquisition of OffiSync, a Seattle-based startup that makes social extensions for Microsoft Office, is to integrate Outlook email with a Jive social community, producing a synthesis perhaps something like (or beyond) what NutshellMail attempted to do with multiple social media outposts and the email inbox before it was acquired by marketing automation vendor Constant Contact. It is noteworthy that Facebook has created a unified messaging interface that combines email with social status updates, feed-posts, text messages, and chat in its Facebook Messages functionality. Jive’s Microsoft Office connector, also powered by technology from the OffiSync acquisition, wasn’t available in the sandbox environment I tested either. But the idea is to sync Office documents being collaborated on within a Jive Community to Office documents on individuals’ laptop or mobile device or with Office documents on a shared server.
SharePoint integration. Microsoft Sharepoint is one of the leading document-based collaboration platforms on the market, but it has lagged other enterprise social software offerings by lacking robust activity streams and a more social front-end.
This has created opportunity for community platform vendors like NewsGator, which add a fully-functional activity stream based social front end to SharePoint. Jive is now entering that market with SharePoint integration. Users and organizations benefit.
Time didn’t permit me to test drive other critical features of Jive 5, but I hope the takeaways noted above give a sense of what’s new in the product and how it may change the online community platform landscape and the adoption rate for this technology. I wasn’t able to test drive the Jive 5 iPad app. It will be introduced at JiveWorld in October. The Jive Facebook Connector — actually rolled out prior to Jive 5 — is another powerful capability I couldn’t test drive. The connector allows companies to integrate Facebook communities, fan pages and content into Jive communities, creating a semi-permeable concentric outer circle of Facebook community interaction around the inner circle of a Jive member-based community.
Perceived Areas For Improvement In Jive 5
Integration Of Online Events Into The Community Platform. Live streaming of online events is one of the most powerful content engagement programs driving existing and new potential members into an online community. Even Facebook recently supported integrations with LiveStream and UStream to harness the audience acquisition power that live online events bring to online communities. President Obama appeared in a town hall meeting hosted by Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook Live, Facebook’s LiveStream channel, earlier this year. This would be particularly useful for any communities that showcase professional development, education and training. My inquiries to Jive about its preferred method of integrating online events into Jive 5 communities have not yet been answered. I will update this post if I learn more.
Video uploads. In the sandbox Jive 5 environment I test drove, the only way I could discover to get an on-demand video into the community was to either upload it from my hard drive or to embed a YouTube URL in a status update. There was no way to embed a YouTube or other video URL while “creating content”. My sandbox didn’t include the Jive Video Module meant for managing and exposing libraries of online videos to community members. I couldn’t find the Brainshark online video presentation software Jive App in the Jive App Market. Oddly it was there last year but appears to have been removed.
What are your experiences with Jive 5? How do you think Jive 5 stacks up against other community platforms?
Credit for Social Enlightenment graphic: Jive Software