Reflecting on the recent BoxWorks conference that I was unfortunately not able to attend, Krish commented on Box’s increasing adoption by enterprise saying that;

I am convinced about the traction Box is getting in this space. Starting with companies like P&G to Six Flags, the companies were completely confident about trusting Box for their content management needs. From the talks given by Box enterprise customers and my own conversations with some of these players, it is pretty clear that Enterprise Mobility and Collaboration are two of driving factors behind their move to Box.

Krish pointed out hat, while this a great boost for Box itself, it’s more a validation that the entire concept of social sharing and collaboration is a valid one. That view gained further weight when Mark Hurd, in discussion with Sameer Patel during Oracle Open World agreed that enterprise customers are really interested in the entire collaboration space. And, if the success of Box is anything to go by, seemingly happy to look way from traditional vendors for this need. Interestingly enough Hurd indicated some news on the horizon with the statement that “I absolutely agree and stay tuned – there’s an announcement coming over the next 48 hours on collaboration” – I sense an acquisition in the air but more on that later.

Which takes me to another vendor, one that has gained far less attention than box.net, but one who, in their own way has been getting runs on the board. Founded in London, but now split between US and UK presence, Huddle is an organization that has had press recently for two reasons – firstly they secured an all-of-Government deal for the UK government that really is massive news (and would have been covered far wider had it been a US-centric deal). Secondly they made news when Google unfortunately picked the word “Huddle” to describe its impromptu Google+ chat feature.

Well after that little debacle cleared, Huddle have been busy gaining momentum where it matters, in the hearts of the followers of this space, and with the footprint to actually be able to deliver into enterprise. First up was Huddle taking a leaf from the Marc Benioff playbook. Benioff was well known, in the early days of salesforce, for using large technology conferences (generally ones run by his competitors) as opportunities to do some guerilla marketing. In this spirit Huddle contracted a marching band and football team to garner some attention at the SharePoint conference in LA this week. Offering SharePoint users and conference attendees a “Welcome to the True Cloud”.

While it’s easy to dismiss stunts like this as mere marketing campaigns, it is an important feature of building public perception that a company is a credible alternative to an incumbent – one only needs to look at the billboards and tee-shirts created by Box.net to see the value in that.

The important thing beyond perception however is execution, and timed to coincide with the lighter weight efforts, Huddle was crowing about he fact that it has just finished a record quarter and is on track to triple sales year-on-year. Some specific wins they’ve had this year include;

  • The launch of the Huddle’s Adoption Guarantee
  • The signing of Matt Wise who built sales at MessageLabs (sold to Symantec for $700m in 2008) to run corporate sales
  • Figures jointly identified by Huddle and UK government reveal that replacing Microsoft SharePoint with Huddle could save more than £287 million
  • Huddle became the first cloud-based collaboration service to launch a private version of its offering – Huddle IL3
  • The company secured a high value ten year deal with FCO Services for Huddle IL3
  • Huddle has recently signed deals with Unilever, Diageo, M&C Saatchi and the Belgian Ministry of Health

Now is the opportunity for players like Box and Huddle to really double down on investing to build market share – the figures coming from both camps show that this is in fact happening. As well as this Huddle has scored a coup, appointing the former MD of salesforce in UK and Ireland, Simon O’Kane  as the Huddle VP of Enterprise.

O’Kane’s job will be to make the excitement and attention that comes from guerilla marketing campaigns and tie that with the credibility that comes from the whole of Government deal hat Huddle did – this gives him a base rom which to really start having deep and meaningful discussions with enterprise CIOs about the realities of deploying Huddle. While on the face of it many would content it’s a simple prospect of making the decision and flipping a switch, the attention that we’ve seen Box.net give to he practicalities of enterprise deployment show it to be an incredibly complex and nuanced thing – and one that requires a real level of maturity around it.

While Huddle is happy to declare that;

Software as a Service (SaaS) has truly come of age and the security and uptime concerns that are the typical barriers to adoption are starting to be overcome.

The reality is somewhat different – seeing the approach that salesforce took to slowly easing its product into enterprise is confirmation of this fact. Huddle has a massive opportunity ahead of itself – they need to focus on a disciplined approach to profile building and sales execution, with that in hand, the sky’s the limit.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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