One on one with Daniel Kraft of NewsGator
Daniel Kraft is president and chief executive officer of NewsGator Technologies. We asked him about the current state of Enterprise Social and what challenges he faces being tied to the SharePoint ecosystem as Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) adds increased social functionality--and also in light of the Yammer purchase.
FCM: Why do you think enterprise social software and the ability to collaborate in a social way has become so important?
DK: We always collaborate in a social way. What is really new is the fact that we can do this not just in the physical world but also in the digital space. What social software really does is bring the human factor back to work. We take a 'Human Centric' approach as we believe the easier we make it for people to exchange ideas, express opinions and even human emotions, the more natural we make work. And that is what social is all about, allowing people to be people even in the digital space.
FCM: What was your first reaction when you heard Microsoft was buying Yammer? Be honest.
DK: I know where you're leading with this question but to be perfectly honest, I was excited to see some great entrepreneurs cutting such a nice deal for their business in a space I really love. They did an awesome job driving the idea of activity streams as the core of collaboration. While many criticized Microsoft for that move, I think it is actually a chance to fight Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Salesforce.com. If they get Office 365, Yammer, Skype and maybe Microsoft Dynamics integrated, you have something that is not unlike Google Apps with Google+ and Salesforce.
FCM: What impact will Microsoft's decision to purchase Yammer have on future iterations of SharePoint and on social software partners like yourself?
DK: That is a matter of focus and positioning. We decided a long time ago to serve the enterprise market. With customers running social workplaces with up to 300,000 users, we are the social backbone of some of the greatest companies on this planet. If you work with Microsoft, you need to add value to the entire Microsoft ecosystem and not just add a few features here and there. This is my third company working with Microsoft and you learn to appreciate the value they bring, but you also learn to have a laser focus on the value you bring to the client within the Microsoft ecosystem.
I know many may not fully understand what we do and what an amazing transformation of the workplace we push. SharePoint is a much under appreciated enterprise platform and I really like how Microsoft adds more capabilities to it. When we started to build Social Sites on SharePoint 2007 we had to fill holes. Today, with SharePoint 2013, we build on top of a great foundation.
FCM: As more enterprise social options become available, such as Salesforce.com's recent announcements around Chatterbox and Chatter Communities, how do you continue to differentiate yourself from the competition?
DK: I love Salesforce.com and have the greatest respect for Marc Benioff for bringing us CRM in the cloud. In fact, one of my companies was a very early customer of his. The issue is that Salesforce.com has a penetration of maybe 10-15 percent of the users in an organization. Adding social to that is not cutting it. "Adding" is the real issue actually. The social workplace will be the de facto standard of working and that is what we are focusing on. If you want to be a part of the amazing change, you have to be tightly integrated in the big ecosystems from Microsoft, SAP, or Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) . If you don't do that, you're just playing. If it was me, I would reach out to Larry at Google and merge Salesforce with their Google Apps and Google+ for Business. That would be a real game changer.
FCM: Where do you see the company in five years? Do you think it's possible for you (or any of the social software players) to stay independent?
DK: None of the many small social software players will be independent forever. I have been in the software space for more than 15 years as an investor, an investment banker and a CEO. And the consolidation cycles are getting shorter and shorter. ERP took about 30 years, ECM took about 20 years, and social will take maybe 10 years. So, you need to be very careful about the ecosystem you play in as your customers want security for their investments. That's why we stay close to the big ecosystems as customers really appreciate that we build on their existing infrastructure and don't add another siloed app.