Some nice surprises

I was in Las Vegas this week for JiveWorld, a vendor conference that’s actually the best business conference I know of. When I attended last year, we hadn't used the product yet. I felt like a new kid at the dance, standing along the wall, watching all the other customers who were changing their firms.

Now, having experienced 40,000+ people using our social platform, it was a different conference for me. And I was surprised at how many other things were different.

The perspective

The tone of the entire conference has shifted to be much more commercial. In the early phases of social business, vendors and practitioners spent a lot of time on evangelism instead of value. This week, though, everyone was talking about money, from the CEO to individual customers.

There was less emphasis on product features and the abstract goodness of connecting. In its place was more focus on - and many more examples of - using collaboration tools and practices to reduce costs and increase revenue.

The progress

Perhaps the biggest shift was the huge increase in customers with meaningful implementations. The early adopters like Claire Flanagan at CSC continue to push the envelope of what’s possible, delivering commercial value (and considerable brand value) for their firms. Scott Tweedy at T-Mobile, another pioneer, showed how they continue to build on what they started and accrue significantly more benefits.

In recent months, new customers like PWC connected 90,000 of their consultants, improving the time-to-market and quality of their solutions. Verizon built a customer community of 1.7 million(!), reducing service calls while improving customer satisfaction. Capital One connected 20,000+ employees across their bank, completely replacing their intranet with a simpler, cheaper, and better environment. And there were similar stories from Thomson Reuters and many others in session after session.

In addition to there being more transformational implementations, the knowledge of what to do and how to do it has continued to get richer. Rachel Happe’s talk on her community management framework, for example, was insightful, detailed, and extremely useful. It's the kind of talk that's made possible only by working with many companies over several years.

The small club I wanted to join last year is becoming a mainstream movement. And with more than half of the people at the conference this year attending for the first time, there is a another building wave of new implementations underway.

The people

I was also surprised at something that didn’t change. The people were all...nice. It might seem like an odd observation but it’s a genuine one. The people at Jive seem to sincerely enjoy working there. And the customers are eager to share their experiences, both good and bad. Perhaps it’s because they feel like they’re part of something bigger. Their goal goes beyond their own work to wanting the vendor - and each other - to succeed.

There’s no snarkiness in the crowd. No edge. Just a very positive, generous feeling that comes from a few thousand people coming together to make work better.

And then there was this

The last surprise was an award for the work we’re doing at our firm. To be sure, there are other firms that have accomplished more. If there’s something a bit different about us, it’s how we work out loud, chronicling what we’re doing and connecting firms in our industry. In doing so, we hope to accelerate our learning, thus realizing more value for our firm while helping more individuals shape their reputation and control their career.

I’m thankful for the award. And I’m even more thankful to work in a firm that lets its employees take risk, work with people I consider family, and take part in a movement that's making work better and more fulfilling.