About this time last year, I threw out a prediction that in 2010 Telcos will get into the Enterprise 2.0 business by bundling social software solutions for the SMB space. In December of 2009, I said:
Telcos will start looking at picking up affordable SaaS Enterprise 2.0 suites. Why? As mindshare starts to get split between Email and Microblogging/Activity streams, telcos and CSPs that offer white label business email hosting for the SMB market will see these as a natural extension. In the SMB market, standalone solutions are key to allow for simple, cheap distribution directly as well as via small reseller partners that don’t want service and customization headaches. E2.0 SaaS offerings meet those criteria. In addition they offer ready plug ins into other popular SMB apps such as SalesForce for those that want integration.
That could mean a huge buyer market outside of the traditional enterprise players who seem to prefer build as opposed to buy scenarios (Salesforce Chatter, TIBCO Tibbr, SharePoint 2010, SAP Constellation, etc).
If I’m somewhat correct, expect the likes of British Telecom, Singtel and Comcast etc jump in. If I’m very right and my commoditization assessment from last year holds true, we’ll see more players such as RackSpace and XO communications start to pay attention as well.
Fast forward to November and it looks like I was on target albeit by the skin of my teeth. Cisco Systems, the makers of Cisco Quad, announced a hosted SMB solution for their existing Telco channel to distribute. Says Murali Sitaram, VP at Cisco who oversees the collaboration business:
"We think our telecom partners over time will have the opportunity to deliver full services using our products." Murali Sitaram, the Cisco vice president in charge of Quad, told me in a recent interview. "So [that can include] cloud-based, or private cloud based or hosted services for our customers, using the range of UC and collaboration components we have."
Where I expected that a telco will have made an acquisition by now, this move by Cisco puts the products in the hands of Telcos to resell. Don’t be surprised if this triggers a few large telcos to acquire social software technology and keep the entire spread. Most of what an SMB requires is basic social software functionality and most likely, that can be attained at a commodity price. Whilst we’ve seen over and over again that larger companies continue to chose the build over buy route (Novell, NetSuite and Epicor for example) when it comes to social software solutions, there is an argument to be made for the IP that’s gone into building scalable and purpose driven experiences by the more mature start ups (relatively speaking).
Looking at 2011….
It’s only November but since Starbucks in the US has already started selling coffee in red and green paper cups (gulp), I’ll take the liberty of penning a 2011 prediction that I’ve already stated to many industry insiders:
Expect Intuit/its’ competitors to make a SaaS-based social software acquisition (such as Yammer, Basecamp or Socialcast) or enter the business organically. Intuit’s core competency in my view is less about its’ ability to sell hosted business process services but it’s close relationship with a gynormous SMB base, thanks in part to its amazing community building efforts. They’re way ahead of the curve that I laid out here over the summer. And tacking on collaboration for an additional $1-$3 a month looks like a slam dunk way to own employee engagement – a capability that’s an extremely fragmented or even down right neglected system-of-record in the SMB software stack.
Based on what were seeing in the market in our work with large-co buyers that are looking to execute social software enabled business programs, I see a few more industry shifts coming to market that buyers and sellers need to get ready for. But this was worth an open discussion right about now.
Enterprise social software is in for a wild ride in 2011 as large companies enter the market and smaller ones alter their focus to solving known business and process inefficiencies. As a result of this, expect the sell-side to get very very noisy with their marketing.
As someone who cut his teeth in the traditional strategy consulting business, SWAGs (‘strategic wild ass guess’) were common back then. Thankfully (hopefully?) we all get better with age by adding experience and logic to what we expect to see coming down the pike : – )
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