Jive CEO Elisa Steele
ESW Capital's acquisition of Jive has broader implications for those in the community space PHOTO: Web Summit

On May 1, Jive announced private equity firm ESW Capital had acquired it in a deal valued at $462 million. The buy will move Jive from being a publicly-traded company to a member of the Aurea Software portfolio.

In the weeks that have followed Jive CEO Elisa Steele’s announcement, the Palo Alto-based company has worked to quell fears about what the acquisition might mean for its estimated 300 employees, the future of the software’s development, and the particularly “challenging” task before them of integrating Jive with Aurea, in Aurea CEO Scott Brighton’s own words.

Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to think about what’s next. Because whether you’re a Jive user or not, this acquisition signals some much larger changes in the entire community industry and potentially in your role.

For community managers and those leading community teams, what does this news mean? 

The Big Players Care About Your Role

Over the last few years, many big players in the space have snatched up smaller platforms: Higher Logic acquired Socious, Sprinklr acquired Get Satisfaction, Personify acquired Small World Labs.

Meanwhile, software heavyweights are building their own offerings that have put community on the map in a big way. As Steele put it in her letter to Jive employees and partners announcing the acquisition: “Big players like Microsoft, Salesforce, Google, Facebook and Amazon are all now pursuing the same market we are.” 

From Microsoft Teams to Workplace by Facebook to Salesforce’s Community Cloud, these giants are making community impossible to ignore.

They’re building community — and the customer — into the very fabric of organizations. Unless they offer powerful integrations with these giants, smaller community software players won’t be able to compete at the enterprise level.

The role and importance of community managers has been ignored for too long, but we are now at a tipping point. Community should sit across an entire organization, speaking to stakeholders of every type — and the big players know that.

Community managers’ unique ability to speak across the business, to manage change and uncertainty, and to understand business direction makes them uniquely poised to lead in this brave new world. Does this larger change further demonstrate that community managers will become the next generation of CEOs? 

I’ll let you chew on that.

Develop Your Cross-Functional Communication Skills

With an ever-integrated market where software giants are baking community into every piece of their operations, community builders now need expertise in working across lines of business and speaking to people whose jobs have never before intersected so closely with customers.

In 10 years, the community platform vendor market has grown from about 10 vendors on the market (according to The Community Rountable co-founder Rachel Happe) to 57 strong contenders today, not to mention many up and coming platforms and open-source solutions meant to serve community and collaboration in more niche ways. 

How can you prepare for the changes that will inevitably happen in the next 10 years?

In order to speak across lines of business and work in service of your organization, it’s essential to learn the language that executives speak and tailor your message to them. Hone your diplomacy skills, communication skills and spend time getting buy-in. You can’t afford to silo yourself anymore.

Platform Companies Move Closer to the Customer

In his analysis of the Jive acquisition, Jim Lundy, CEO of Aragon Research noted: “It’s going to take a lot of work for Jive to catch up to booming collaboration startups like Slack.”

In their breakdown of the whys and hows of Jive’s acquisition, most analysts ignored disruptive newcomers like Slack. But it’s important that community managers see why Slack is an equally formidable foe to Jive and the software giants — and is a community manager’s best ally.

Why? Like any strong community, Slack as an organization lives and breathes its mission: to make people’s working lives easier. Slack puts community builders and the communities they serve at the center of all it does.

Slack serves its end users happily and flexibly — and directly. Slack end users aren't the IT administrator, procurement professional or any other “middleman.” It's all about direct to the people power, which community managers are experts at harnessing. Slack has forced the giants to take this work seriously, and to pay attention to the role that community and collaboration will play in their organizations.

A Shrinking Market

The Jive acquisition is just one example of a much larger global economic trend that community managers should be aware of: the decrease in market competition and increase in monopolies in the US.

Even as the global markets have grown over the last 50 years, the number of firms dominating the American markets have declined. “The number of [publicly] listed companies in America nearly halved between 1997 and 2013, from 6,797 to 3,485,” reported The Economist in September 2016.

As noted in coverage of the acquisition news: The acquisition takes Jive “off the publicly-traded rolls and into the private sector again,” making the company less responsive to shareholder demands.

For consumers, this could spell disaster. But all of this, for community practitioners, could mean a new opportunity to make your organization all the more community-focused and competitive in an ever-shrinking market.