Mzinga's new CEO, Alan Nugent, is no stranger to the needs of the enterprise. He has managed some pretty large development organizations and he knows what it takes to make a company successful in the enterprise market.

All Customers are Not the Same

That's right. All customers are not the same, especially when you are looking at serving the SMB market compared to the enterprise market. There are some very important differences, and, as Nugent told us, having great software is one part of what it takes to get enterprise organizations to sit up and pay attention to you.

Nugent started working in an advisory capacity with Mzinga in April of last year, helping them understand what it will take to deal with large enterprise clients. He doesn't have a social software background specifically, but he said that when it's tech at the core, there are a lot of skills that translate well. His background includes executive vice president and CTO at CA Technologies, and senior vice president and CTO at Novell, so enterprise experience is a given.

And that's good for Mzinga, whose social software solution OmniSocial is pretty much on par with all the others in terms of core functionality (it has it's unique selling points as well).

Getting to the Enterprise

Mzinga does currently have enterprise customers, but they are hoping that Nugent can help them pick up even more. Nugent told us that it's not enough to have an "enterprise" product, but they also need to make the entire organization more responsive, including having a professional enterprise salesforce, strong CRM/support and a great collection of partners. It takes an entire ecosystem to support the needs of the enterprise.

So what exactly are the key differences between selling to the enterprise and selling to the SMB market?

Doing the Work

SMBs are more willing to do work themselves to integrate new solutions. Nugent says that's one way technical teams justify themselves, having more internal talent. SMBs are more open to targeted, point solutions -- solutions that don't have a complete set of adapters immediately available.

Enterprises, on the other hand, expect those adapters (or connectors) to be available out of the box.

What types of connectors should be there out of the box? That's the million dollar question, because you certainly can't provide a connector for every possible system. Nugent says the key is focus. You need to address the needs of a small number of markets. Where are the highest opportunities?

In Mzinga's case, they developed some role-based apps (use cases) for three specific markets (Nugent also points out that there are dozens of other opportunities):

  • Marketing/CRM
  • Customer Support/Communications
  • Social Learning

Once the use cases are picked, you have to look at the environments these organizations work in. This will give you a list of partners and applications from which you can then prioritize your integration efforts.

Security

While security is important to an organization, regardless of size, enterprises expect a solution to be able to integrate with different identity management systems. This means that the connectors need to be ready out of the box, quickly eliminating objections because it's ready to go to work.

And again, SMBs are more willing to put the time in to do the integration themselves.

Compliance & Regulations

Enterprises are required to adhere to some pretty stringent compliance laws and regulations, both HIPPA and internal policies, adding complexity to any software implementation.

What About Functionality?

We know there are obvious differences between SMBs and enterprises in terms of security, integration and compliance, but what about product capabilities? Nugent told us that the higher level aspirations are the same. Everyone wants features such as analytics and reporting to help refine the characteristics of the information and the people seeking it.

The challenges and risks are also fairly universal. There are, of course, differences in terms of policies related to social.

Building Features Based on the Consumer Market

Features built into the commercial versions of social software have often come from what's happening in the consumer web. We are even seeing consumer-based solutions like Facebook trying to expand capabilities to what the enterprises need. There is certainly a cross over happening between these two markets.

Nugent agreed that you can build your enterprise solution based on what's happened in the consumer market, but that's only a small piece of what you need to do to make a successful product. He said that it's not about the product itself, it's about customers/markets and understanding them better and learning their needs.

Mzinga's Roadmap

What does all this mean for Mzinga? Compared to solutions/platforms like Jive Software, NewsGator, SharePoint and Lithium, the vendor does make the grade, but still has a way to go. Of course, there is always room for another one, especially if that vendor truly understands what it takes to make it in the enterprise.

So for Mzinga, the roadmap includes things like building out the use cases and ecosystem, expanding/improving professional services, the development of role-based apps focused on their key markets, building a scalable and secure solution, and focusing on critical capabilities such as mobile and analytics.

It sounds like a busy time for the company, but one that appears to have focus.