LogMeIn to acquire GoTo family of products from Citrix

Back in November, Citrix announced that it would spin out the GoTo family of products (see Citrix to spin out Goto products, will cut ‘investment’ in Podio). The company cut 1,000+ employees, and considered various options, under pressure from activist investor Elliott Management Group demanded changes. Today, the other shoe has fallen, with remote access software company LogMeIn announcing that it will acquire the kit-and-kaboodle from Citrix for $1.8 billion.
The deal has been approved by both companies, and will be structured as a ‘reverse Morris Trust’ which is a simultaneous spin out and merger, which will lead to a zero tax hit for Citrix.
The combined company should have revenues of over $1 billion.
It seems that the CEO of LogMeIn, Bill Wagner, believes in the synergies between a remote access software company and collaborative communications like the GoTo family, including GoToMeeting, GoToAssist, GoToMyPC, GoToTraining, GoToWebinar, Grasshopper and OpenVoice. Which, once upon a time, remote access software company Citrix also believed in. But now LogMeIn will be taking another run at that. (Or maybe there’s more synergy between companies that use capital letters to create HardToType company names?)
I think GoToMeeting and its siblings are in a crowded and commoditized market, with real pressure from the low end of the market by Google Hangouts, Join.me, Zoom, and others. I think Citrix has done well to walk away.
Not part of the deal is the somewhat-orphaned work media product, Podio, which is has been folded into the Cloud products at Citrix, like ShareFile. Citrix declared that it was decreasing its investments in that product in November, but not closing it down. In March, development for Podio was moved to Raleigh North Carolina.

Why isn’t the future of work top of mind?

From one perspective. last week’s ‘big story’ was the continuing fall-out and discourse about Marissa Mayer’s ‘no remote work’ diktat. I added a bit of fuel to the fire with Cultural change is really complex contagionWhy are disengaged employees disengaged?, and Why work doesn’t happen at work. But since I analyzed that issue at some length last week, I’ve decided to talk about something different.
Last week, SxSW ramped up, with the event’s curious admixture of tech Mardi Gras and the search for the next-shiny-app. I decided, several months ago, to sit out SxSW, for a variety of reasons.
SxSW obviously jumped the shark a few years ago. In Jan 2011, I wrote about SxSW:

Stowe Boyd, Why I Am Not Going To SxSW
I have attended SxSW Interactive a few times, and I’ve found it to be a high-tech Woodstock, without the mud or the music. Just lots of people milling around, and queued up for the parties, the after parties, and the after-after parties.
The selection approach for the talks is all about popularity, and there is no obvious thematic control, and no MC, so the sessions are very uneven. Some can be great, but the majority are a rewarming of shopworn topics. The most popular talks are too crowded to admit all those that want in, so you’re lucky if you get into one in five of those.

By a curious turn of events, I had clients who wanted me to meet with them during SxSW that year, so I wound up in Austin during the event, but without a pass. And I found that sort of interesting, since I could observe the goings-on without the same expectation of attending a conference, but more like an errant anthropologist. Again, in an odd twist of events, I was asked to be on the program committee — which meant a free pass in ’12 — and I accepted thinking that I might have some impact on the program. And, I also had a panel accepted for ’12 (with Dave Gray, Megan Murray, and Gordon Ross), so I had reasons to attend.
But there were only a small number of sessions that appealed to me last year, and some I couldn’t get into because Interactive has become just way too packed. I looked carefully at the program, and there just wasn’t enough that I wanted to see to make it worth the money, time and travel. So, although I am still on the program committee, and I have a free pass, I opted to not go.
But I want to use that as a pivot point to ask a related question: why isn’t the future of work more of a burning issue? Why aren’t there more sessions at SxSW on social business, why aren’t more social business vendors out there promoting their vision of the future?
Perhaps the acquisition of Yammer, Podio, and Socialcast has made social business software seem like ‘business as usual’ and not as likely a breakthrough in productivity as apps like Tempo or Mailbox.
I think there is a huge dislocation going on. Issues like Yahoo’s ‘no remote work’ ban are top of mind, as are the societal stressors like our increasing work/life imbalance, the freelance economy, the downsides of temp work a la Amazon distribution workers, and a long list of others.
We seem to be lacking a positive vision of the future of work, one that would make it more interesting. In business terms, some set of ideas that would put the future of work in the black, and pull it out of the red.
I’ve written a bit about open work (see Open work is the next high water mark for social business), but absent some actual software products being developed to implement that (where are you, LinkedIn?) it’s just a handwave by a futurist.
What I think is needed is a better understanding of what is going on, in the office buildings and home offices across the country and across the world, to help people understand that we aren’t just being blown before the winds of a precarious economy, we are actively headed somewhere, even if we haven’t been able to say exactly where that is.
So I think that the fact that this critical and timely discussion isn’t occupying top of mind in the business world reflects a failure of people like me to do our jobs, which is to try to make sense of the large trends shaping the world of work, and to cast those in terms that help others to take affective action. And specifically, to make clear where we are headed, and why. I promise to rededicate myself to that task.

Asana adds Android client, and an exemplary Asana Guide

The team task management tool Asana announced the release of a mobile client for Android. I have used my iPhone client only occasionally (because I generally have my MacBook Air with me), but when I do it is always fairly critical. I wonder what proportion of Asana users are actively using the mobile client? Evidence from other social tools vendors suggests that it can be very high, like Podio’s mention that over a third of their users use the mobile app more than the PC version.

But Asana has done something more noteworthy — and the real reason for this post, honestly — by creating a detailed and well-organized Asana Guide to help users get up to speed and exploit the tool’s capabilities.

Here’s a snapshot:

asana guide

I am amazed how few detailed guides or user manuals like this are created, or maintained. You’d think that companies investing some much time, effort, and money into developing social tools would allocate a reasonably effort into guides to help people use them. It is sadly uncommon. And, by the way, providing a user forum for customer recommendations and discussion is not a replacement for a user guide, like a lot of start-ups like to pretend.

Asana’s example is a baseline for other companies to be judged by.

Open Work is the next high water mark for social business

Social business tools are relatively closed, even though they derive most of their intuitive power from the pull model of communication, as more openly typified by Twitter and other ‘consumer’ or personal social networks. But they simply aren’t designed to create an open social context for businesses to coordinate work across corporate boundaries.

However, I think that we will see people trying to bridge that gap. I call that area Open Work, and I believe it represents opportunities for innovation and productivity improvements equivalent from what we are likely to get from today’s work media (enterprise social networks).

Here’s a chart (one that I am developing for a research report) that might indicate what I am getting at.

open work

 

This chart breaks things up along two axes: open v closed communications and push v push communication. The upper right quadrant is open/pull communications, also called the open follower model, with Twitter as perhaps the best example. Today’s work media solutions attempt to leverage the power of pull communication, where the recipient decides what information is valuable, and information sources simply post, relying on streams to carry information to the appropriate recipients. However, work media is totally closed: the only people that can receive work media messages have been invited: they are known and authorized.

Open Work will play at the boundary, so that companies can have the safety and security of work media solutions for much of their communications and coordination of work. But there will be an added element: the ability to publish some information to the wider community, including unknown potential contributors and partners, and to receive messages back as well.

For this to happen, the work media model must be extended to include capabilities of content management systems, like WordPress, and perhaps something like form-based interfaces.

What I envision is the ability for an individual, Bette, who works for a consulting company called AdjectiveNoun, to publish messages freely to the entire community of other users of a next-gen work media solution, more like a Twitter model. However, unlike Twitter’s text messages, Bette’s messages could be more structured, including open-ended tasks (for crowdsourcing), calls for proposals, or polls, for example. The responses from anyone following her in the community would be streamed back into whatever project she had defined for publishing those messages from, and results could be aggregated, calculated, analyzed, and routed using whatever capabilities her next gen work media tool might support.

 

Podio is one company that seemed to be headed in this direction a few years ago when they launched, but in the year leading up to and since the acquisition by Citrix they have been pouring their energies into other activities. But just because the leading work media tools seem to be ignoring this market niche doesn’t mean that it won’t be an area of innovation in the near future. I am betting on it.

Jostle lands additional $3.1M for anti-social intranet

Jostle (jostle.me) is a company positioned as a competitor to work media tools (enterprise social networks) like Yammer, Jive, Podio and IBM Connect. They announced an additional $3.1 million in funding from private investors, bringing the company’s equity investment up to $4.6 million. Notably absent are venture capitalist and angel investors.
Jostle’s positioning is way, way out of the sweet spot where other work media companies have tended to cluster. The company’s marketing message includes the claim that ‘social business is too social’:

via website
The problems with enterprise social tools
Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have dramatically changed how people interact. Many vendors quickly replicated these consumer approaches to create the first generation of enterprise social platforms (aka Enterprise 2.0). Results have been mixed.
First-generation enterprise social platforms are failing because they:

  1. Presume mass collaboration will spontaneously break out.
  2. Mimic consumer products designed to entertain.
  3. Fail to engage the workplace, ignoring company culture and structured teamwork.
  4. Inflict massive change, changing both work processes and where information resides.
  5. Often challenge how decisions are made and confuse leadership.

Although many companies have now experimented with enterprise social platforms, very few have succeeded in making them mission critical to how work gets done.

I don’t buy their reasoning about social tools being too social.  In fact, one of my biggest complaints about today’s work media platforms is that they don’t support the open follower model as implemented in Tumblr and Twitter. The specific points they make are unsupported. But what they’ve built makes it clear that this is a tool for people who reject the more fast and loose style of work that seems to arise when work media tools are adopted and a more distributed decision making supplants top-down control.  The tool specifically enshrines the hierarchical organization chart as the central metaphor of company operations.

Jostle does not have status updates and activity streams as the central communication paradigm, instead they make the point in their demo that Jostle automates email lists for every organizational group. Again, Jostle seems to be positioned for companies that are tightly wedded to email and hierarchy. Yes, they soften things a bit by offering up a huge people wall — a mosaic of the face shots of all the employees — but that seems like eye candy, and less a part of the true operational model of the product. While ‘Activity’ is a major aspect of the user experience, it mostly looks like reporting stats from various projects used to ‘drive culture’ as their literature states, like how many profiles have been updated or viewed, but not critical information flowing from the projects. And the ‘News’ view is meant to be a replacement for the company newsletter. Lastly, Jostle implements a ‘Library’ — a document repository — that supports document sharing with designated curators. Yawn.
In the final analysis, Jostle isn’t really a competitor to work media: it’s a substitute, or maybe better said, a wholesale rejection and retreat from work media premises. Jostle is a organization-centric intranet, being marketed as a solution to work media-style collaboration, but it just doesn’t line up on a feature basis. Jostle provides a fluffy organizational profile directory and intranet, supporting pre-social notions of communication (principally email), and as far as I can tell lacks any notion of bottom-up collaboration, like activity streams, status updates, tasks, or projects.
There may in fact be a market for an explicitly anti-social tool, for companies where management is worried about the impacts of social software, but need to share documents and provide a company directory for lightweight expertise management purposes. But I think the investors are making a bad bet on a company ideologically committed to the past.

6Wunderkinder: Berlin needs less hype, more focus

Productivity startup 6Wunderkinder made a big noise on the Berlin scene when it launched, but it’s been quiet for a few months. Now CEO Christian Reber explains why other German startups should follow suit and focus on their product — and why he’s worried about Windows 8.

Do we need WordPress for the enterprise?

The collaboration space is already crowded, but one expert feels there is still a gap in the market for a “WordPress for enterprise,” a flexible collaboration platform that allows businesses to tailor their collaboration suite as easily as WordPress allows them to tailor their sites.

Is collaboration tech bad for office autocrats too?

New communication tools have been credited with helping spur uprisings against some of the world’s nastiest regimes. In a very scaled-down way, is the ease of connecting also bad news for office autocrats? A SXSW panel delved into the question.

Want to make the enterprise social? Learn from Excel.

Podio CEO Tommy Ahlers is looking to a very unlikely place to figure out the future of social software in the enterprise: Excel. Spreadsheets have been inspiring people for years to customize solutions to their needs. Now it’s time to take that spirit to enterprise apps.