Finding a third-party solution that solves problems in your SharePoint environment requires a lot of research and time. The following interview with Coldwater Software cofounder and Chief Product Officer Bryan Schoening is meant to give you an overview of Coldwater Software’s ElevatePoint product line and help you determine if it might suit your needs.
KF: What is the specific problem the Coldwater Software product solves?
Bryan Schoening: We focus heavily on improving user adoption and employee engagement on SharePoint intranets. Our products address a range of common challenges around communication planning, news delivery, social communication channels and measurement insight into communication and employee engagement efforts.
The challenges that ElevatePoint products and services solve often result in poor productivity and affect bottom-line performance. Some of the common pains organizations not using ElevatePoint face are: First, communication challenges. These involve time, budget and resource constraints; poor employee engagement; lack of measurement and insight into employee engagement; and communicating with a distributed, disconnected workforce. Second, ElevatePoint addresses IT challenges, which include varying business demands (meaning IT has too much to do internally and not enough time) and maintaining control (which happens when you have too many external solutions that make it difficult for IT to maintain, secure, and control infrastructure). Third, leadership challenges include lack of strategic alignment between executive vision and employees’ ability to deliver on that vision, as well as missed productivity and profitability opportunities due to poor employee engagement and communication.
Organizations often address these areas as distinct projects to be solved separately. We offer products and services that focus on delivering organization-wide employee engagement improvements. From strategy and planning to delivery of communications and measurement, we work with our customers to make sure they are improving adoption and employee engagement on SharePoint, thus maximizing their investment in the platform.
KF: Can you briefly describe the product?
Bryan Schoening: The ElevatePoint Corporate Communication Suite delivers a comprehensive set of SharePoint products to help customers plan, communicate, and measure the effectiveness of their corporate communication strategy. ElevatePoint products are built hand-in-hand with corporate communication and IT professionals to provide tangible business value on the SharePoint platform. Products are available as a suite of solutions or purchased individually as appropriate for our customers.
KF: Can you explain how this suite of products works?
Bryan Schoening: First is the ElevatePoint Plan. This is a corporate communication planning solution that enables organizations to centralize and gain control of their communication planning process directly within SharePoint.
Next is ElevatePoint News, which is a powerful and flexible SharePoint news and communication solution. Designed to integrate smoothly into your existing SharePoint environment, ElevatePoint news adds a rich, social news experience for improved employee engagement and meaningful corporate communications.
Finally, ElevatePoint Chart is an intuitive, easy-to-use SharePoint chart web part that helps turn SharePoint list data into visual business insight. You can get it as a standalone web part for SharePoint 2010, 2013 and SharePoint Online.
You can purchase these solutions as a suite or individually.
KF: Who is that target customer?
Bryan Schoening: In terms of business size, we look at organizations that have more than 50 people using SharePoint. The more users, the more powerful our solution becomes. The solution is great for organizations working across multiple departments, regions, locations, etc.
In terms of role, we serve the SharePoint Admin/IT Professional – anyone responsible for their organization’s SharePoint intranet. These customers are typically technical and are looking for ways to maximize usage of the SharePoint site. Often the dilemma is whether to build solutions in house or look to external third-party providers.
We also serve the Corporate Communication Professional. Anyone responsible for corporate communication or internal messaging is the primary user of the product. They will create strategically aligned communication plans, deliver and publish news, and measure and engage with employees through social channels. Their goal is to deliver compelling tools to the employees to create an aligned and engaged workforce.
KF: What options do customers have as alternatives to Coldwater Software? How are people dealing with the situation if they don’t have Coldwater Software?
Bryan Schoening: While many organizations are looking for solutions to improve employee engagement, they don’t know where to turn. Many organizations struggle with building internal communication solutions on SharePoint, but these are difficult to maintain and don’t fully meet the business requirements. Market solutions often focus on only one element of the problem and often result in a disjointed solution landscape for IT to manage. These solutions cost a lot and don’t create the impact the business requires.
Communication planning is often performed in Microsoft Word or PowerPoint and usually decentralized, which leads to multiple versions and overall confusion across the planning team. Additionally, managing the tasks associated with the plans is often very challenging when managed in this decentralized way.
SharePoint has robust publishing capabilities, but the news consumption experience is frustrating and actually contributes to poor SharePoint adoption across the organization. Many companies then depend on one-way communication channels such as email or newsletters, which rarely engage the employees and make it very difficult for communication teams to assess the impact of their efforts.
With SharePoint 2013, no native charting tool is available to visualize list-based SharePoint data. ElevatePoint provides a charting solution that helps organizations turn data into visual insight through easy to use charting and graphing capabilities.
Without our product, organizations are forced to leverage a number of tools which creates inefficiencies and taxes on departments that are already overburdened.
KF: Who are your competitors for this product?
Bryan Schoening: Our primary competitors are Newsweaver, Sitrion, Socialcast.
KF: What differentiates your solution from others on the market?
Bryan Schoening: Most of our competitors only focus on one element of the communication lifecycle – news delivery. Our product focuses on supporting the entire communication lifecycle – planning, communication delivery and measurement. Because we centralize this entire process into one platform, our customers can easily see the impact of their efforts, adjust, and improve to constantly evolve their communication strategy.
In addition, our product is designed in close collaboration with communication professionals. Our team of Microsoft alumni works closely with industry experts, our clients, and communication professionals in the development of our products. We keep pace with communication and technology best practices to lighten the load on our customers.
We deliver communication channels to empower a more productive workforce. Many of our competitors have a nice UI and easy-to-use platforms. But these platform are often disjointed from the company’s strategic goals and focus heavily on social features without a direct link to how those social features will enable a more productive, engaged, and happy workforce. Users of these solutions that we have talked to have regretted creating more communication channels that do not positively impact how business is performed. Thus the fear in our industry around the word “social.”
We offer better engagement and communication relevance. With our ability to target news and create multiple channels directly within SharePoint, we ensure that the right news is getting to the right people at the right time. Our embedded social features such as commenting, rating, and sharing also create two-way communications so our customers can hear directly how the organization is responding to their communications.
Our customers get the most out of their existing SharePoint investment. Many of our customers have already invested heavily in SharePoint, but are frustrated with lack of adoption and the negative perception about the platform. Essentially their investment is going to waste. ElevatePoint solutions help create additional value on SharePoint to increase user adoption and overall platform value
KF: What industry research or data should potential customers know about that will help them understand your value proposition and/or evaluate their own situation?
Bryan Schoening: A number of significant studies tie employee engagement to other important operational metrics. Some studies worth reviewing are: Gallup – State of the American Workplace Report. This report is the most comprehensive study on employee engagements impact in the market. Gallup – Q12 Meta Analysis is another great report from Gallup that ties employee engagement to organizational performance. Towers Watson – 2012 Global Workforce Study is a great report on employee engagement based on interviews from 32,000 employees around the world.
KF: Do you have customer testimonials and case studies that readers can refer to?
Bryan Schoening: We are in the process of finalizing a number of customer reference sites, and we will get those shortly, over the next month.
KF: What else do potential customers need to know?
Bryan Schoening: Employee engagement is not a one-solution problem. It requires a comprehensive strategy and an ongoing commitment towards the smart application of technology and measuring results. Many organizations look to solve this challenge with one product or one solution. However, often a multi-pronged attack is required. This is why we have developed a suite of solutions that focuses on supporting the entire communication lifecycle.
Outside of the our products, we also offer Employee Engagement Services to help create an engagement strategy, implement technology to enhance communication planning and measurement, develop a comprehensive mobile strategy, and highlight other potential business-enablement options to help organizations get the most out of their employees. Every company is different, and thus a one-size solution is not the right approach. Whether product or services, we deliver solutions custom fit for our clients’ business.