This morning I received some key facts and figures from one of the emerging major players in the world of collaboration. What is striking to me is how much they look like the key facts and figures of a traditional media company: active users (read: readers); paid subscriptions (read: circulation minus comps); some stuff about annual rate of return and employees; and then the obligatory Silicon Valley “10x” growth in the past 12 months.
Traditional media companies, when putting out these kind of numbers, are appealing to investors and advertisers. In the past, newspapers used to use these numbers to try to influence readers too, with the red-tops in particular having front page banners on how many copies they sold as a way to legitimise their product (a common trick in FMCG too – Britain’s Most Popular Toilet Cleaner!).
This sort of social proof is important, but in the world of collaboration tells us nothing about efficacy; a billion people use Facebook, but that doesn’t mean that Facebook is the best social network, just the most popular (other social networks are available). When spouting these mass media numbers, I presume that the collaboration platform providers are appealing to investors first, and then through social proof potential customers second. But if you are looking to the software providers to get an indication of how to measure the success of a collaboration platform implementation, well, they’re probably not the right people to ask.
This should be of concern to potential customers because, long term, if the supplier is guided by reach not utility then their is a distinct danger that they will fall prey to the instant messaging tipping point of functional uselessness. They are fighting for a mass market and as a result will probably compromise their product at some point through feature bloat.
The hunt for platform providers who focus on user outcomes continues…