Idea generation and cultivation tool adds Yammer integration, aims for larger audience with free Icon version.
Taking a page from Yammer’s freemium cloud application playbook, Spigit is offering a version of its idea generation and cultivation tool that you can get for free, just by volunteering an email address.
Just like Yammer, Icon by Spigit will create internal employee collaboration groups (in this case, specifically for the purpose of idea generation) by grouping by email domains the users who sign up for the free product. Like Yammer, Spigit also plans to offer upgrades to paid plans with more administrative tools, including the ability to create collaboration groups that span multiple email domains, in an update coming this summer. The free version was released Tuesday.
Beyond paralleling the Yammer business model, Icon is available as a social application that you can access with your Yammer login, making progress of your idea-generation projects visible in the Yammer activity stream.
Spigit is in the business of idea management, or ideation–harnessing the creative power of crowds to generate ideas and identify the best ones. Trying to distinguish itself in a crowded market where it counts 41 competitors doing something similar, “we decided it was probably a good idea for us to see what anybody could do with an innovation platform, if we could give it a price of zero,” said James Gardner, chief strategy officer at Spigit.
Spigit has been plying its trade with large organizations and crowdsourcing projects that reach hundreds of thousands of individuals, Gardner said, but meanwhile “there is this other group that is unserved, where smaller crowds or workgroups within organizations need to solve the same issues.”
Icon is not identical to the Engage platform Spigit offers to large enterprises, the one that powers WestJet’s program for gathering employee cost-cutting suggestions, for example. Our colleagues in the TechWeb conference group also use Spigit as the basis of the Enterprise 2.0 conference call for papers process for submitting session ideas.
Icon doesn’t offer as many choices, instead guiding users down a simple path to launching a challenge or responding to a challenge with their own ideas. The home page is a leaderboard showing the most active users and the challenges that are currently running. Applying the principles of gamification, Icon assigns each user a pool of points they must spend to launch a challenge. The people whose ideas rank highest at the end of the challenge, based on the votes of other participants, win points and the glory of recognition. Challenge sponsors also get points for creating challenges that create a lot of interest. This structure discourages people from posting frivolous challenges, Gardner said. “I’m motivated to create challenges people are interested in.”
The creator of a challenge can promote it by sharing the link through email or through Yammer, if that integration is in place.
The voting process is also simplified. The system rotates the ideas that have been submitted for display, two at a time, at the top of the challenge details screen. Users are then asked to vote for the one they think is most promising–a simple “hot or not” ranking, in the words of the press release–and the process continues until all ideas in the contest have been given an equal chance. “We guarantee the same number of eyeballs for each combination,” Gardner said.
Icon has been designed with a responsive user interface that updates continually via Ajax, with HTML5 formatting that adapts to the screen dimensions of a PC, an iPad, or an iPhone-class device.
Part of Spigit’s deal with Yammer is to position itself as a natural addition to the enterprise social network, right at the moment that Yammer is nixing its own ideation product.
Yammer VP of product James Patterson said the company is discontinuing the Ideas application it had in beta for the past year. “A small handful of companies actually turned that on, so we decided to phase that out for lack of adoption,” he said. Yammer’s ambition is to be “the social layer across all business apps,” not necessarily to build a lot of the underlying applications itself, he said. Instead, it offers its customers lightweight apps for functions like content management while also striving to link to established enterprise content management systems, he said. In the case of idea management, the Yammer Ideas app turned out to be a little too lightweight.
The company recognized it would have to add a lot more features to make Yammer Ideas useful, Patterson said, “and it basically became too complicated–we decided we didn’t want to go down that path.”
Spigit is a major partner, but the relationship is not exclusive, Patterson said. Yammer also partners with competing players like Bright Ideas. Yammer wants to build a symbiotic relationship with all its integration partners like the one between Facebook and Zynga, where Facebook “provides the platform that makes social gaming even possible” while Zynga provides the games themselves, Patterson said. “If other companies are building their engagement layer on top of us, it increases the value of Yammer.”
Meanwhile, Spigit saw an opportunity to build on an established partnership with Yammer. “Yammer is very clear about what business it’s in, and at the same time Yammer wanted to partner with us on ideation. We’re very excited about that. Also, we decided to make this free until you want control, which is directly compatible with Yammer’s model,” he said.
Icon is mimicking a Yammer strategy that draws objections from some IT managers who see the freemium model as a trap for luring in users into an unsanctioned collaboration environment. It’s also celebrated by organizations like the SuperValu grocery chain, which used its initial ad hoc deployments as a proof of concept for what has since become a corporate standard.
“Icon’s model, like Yammer’s before it, is somewhat disruptive to the command and control that’s traditionally been quite a big part of large technology shops,” Gardner acknowledged in an email follow-up. “We think Yammer and the ‘bring your own device’ movement have educated traditionalist technologists to the benefits of these kinds of tools. They are the sorts of tools that are very hard to justify from a business case perspective before they’re up and running, but quite invaluable once they are. Our hope is that we will be able to strike the right balance between functionality and control so that both sides will have a lot to gain.”
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