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Vendor Profile: ThoughtFarmer

The Intranetizen team are often asked advice about intranet vendors that supply software and hardware solutions to run your intranet. Whilst we have 35 years of blue-chip intranet experience between us, in common with many intranet practitioners, we have relatively limited experience of the 200+ software systems that companies use.

To help you, to help us and to help the vendors themselves, we’re running a series of posts of over this coming week showcasing 5 intranet companies. We’ve supplied them with the same standard set of questions and will publish their answers in their own words to ensure equity! All the images have been supplied by the company themselves and are reproduced with permission.

Today, we showcase ThoughtFarmer.

In a brief paragraph, who are you?

ThoughtFarmer is social intranet software. It combines traditional intranets with social features. You can use it to communicate, to collaborate and to engage your employees.

Briefly describe your product’s history? Why did you start it, where does it come from?

The idea behind ThoughtFarmer took root while searching for the ultimate intranet solution for a consulting client in 2005. This intranet would unite a geographically dispersed workforce and be the de facto knowledge repository. It would make it easy for any employee to share information and cultivate knowledge and would exist on a secure, on-premise Microsoft network (we’ve since expanded to include a Cloud version). Such a platform didn’t exist, so we set out to build it. In 2006, we had our first customer: Intrawest Placemaking, the real estate development arm of Intrawest, which operates ski resorts around the world including Whistler Blackcomb. Their success with our new platform led to an oft-cited case study, featured in Andrew McAfee’s book, Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for your Organization’s Toughest Challenges. Since then, ThoughtFarmer has been adopted by numerous organizations around the world.

Describe your typical customer – what kind of company, what size, what are the kinds of problems they need to solve?

The typical customer has between 100 and 5,000 employees in multiple locations, possibly around the world. The company wants an easy-to-use intranet with traditional features (clear hierarchical page navigation, homepage news, filtered search) as well as social features such as groups, rich employee profiles, comments and discussion forums, collaborative editing and activity streams. Employee engagement is typically important to these companies and they want an intranet with humanizing features that help employees connect with each other and the company more easily.

What do you see as your product and company’s USP?

You don’t have to “go social or go home” like many social software vendors suggest in their marketing. ThoughtFarmer offers easy-to-use social intranet software that lets you build a traditional intranet with social features fully integrated from head to toe.

Which feature(s) of your product do your customers rave about most?

Ease of creating & editing pages. The People Directory with rich employee profiles. The blazing speed. And our support (we publish our support satisfaction rating publicly, and it’s at 100% as of the time of this writing: http://helpdesk.thoughtfarmer.com).

Which feature(s) of your product do you feel are most under-used?

Mobile. It surprises us how many clients want mobile, but then don’t have the network infrastructure or security policies in place to allow their employees to use it.

 

How much customisation does your product typically need / how much to you recommend your customers make?

ThoughtFarmer is built as an out-of-the-box social intranet solution and needs virtually no customization at the code level. For new customers we apply a custom skin based on their brand standards, but that is accomplished through our simple administrative skinning panel.

What advice would you give a company planning to invest in a new intranet platform? / what are the most important factors to consider?

  1. Don’t get caught up in feature wars. Do research that uncovers employees’ actual needs. Record 5 or more usage scenarios that describe, in story format, how employees will use the intranet. Evaluate intranet software based on those scenarios.
  2. Plan for an ongoing intranet program, not just a new intranet project. If you only resource an intranet launch, within 18 months your new intranet will have some of the same problems your old intranet had.

What’s your cost model? Free; one-off; per seat per month charging; something else?

Our Self-hosted and Cloud versions each have their own pricing models.

  1. For the Self-hosted version there is a one-time fee per user, which starts at $119/user for under 250 users and declines to $89/user as the total number of users increases to 500 or more. At 1000 users, it moves to server-based licensing. The initial purchase cost buys a perpetual license and a year of Maintenance. Maintenance Fee is based on a percentage of the original purchase price and includes ongoing support and free upgrades.
  2. For the Cloud version there is a monthly fee per user, which starts at $10/user for under 100 users and declines to $4/user for 1000 or more. This monthly cost includes Maintenance (support and upgrades).

Who are your main competitors?

Most of our clients evaluated one or more of SharePoint, Jive and Confluence before deciding on ThoughtFarmer.

What do you need from *your* customers to deliver intranet success?

See answer to #8. If the customer picked ThoughtFarmer after researching actual employee needs, and if they have an intranet program in place, they will be successful.

What does the future have in store for your product?

Our next release has the simplest, most intuitive Add and Edit interface ever devised. The newDocument Library view lets you upload, organize and manage thousands of files efficiently. You can seamlessly edit any attached file stored in ThoughtFarmer with the enhanced Direct File Editing. And you can prune your intranet automatically with the new auto-archiving feature.

What does intranet 2015 look like?

More cloud. More mobile. More tablet. Better single sign-on. There will be a lot of soul-searching as companies that invested heavily in activity streams, microblogging and gamification wonder where all the users are; smart companies will refocus on platforms that help employees get stuff done.

Who should intranetizen readers get in touch with for more information?

Those people interested in learning more about ThoughtFarmer can speak with Chris McGrath, Co-Creator and Vice President for Sales & Marketing: cmcgrath@thoughtfarmer.com | +1 604-424-9095.

What question should we have asked? And if we had, what would the answer have been?

Why do you work on intranets?

First, because ThoughtFarmer emerged from OpenRoad Communications, a web development firm that has helped many companies build intranets over the past 12 years. Second, because we love helping people to work together better and enjoy their work more. That’s why we created easy-to-use social intranet software – to humanize the workplace and help people connect more easily, share their knowledge, and find greater satisfaction in their daily work.

We are very grateful for the time taken by ThoughtFarmer to respond to our questions and hope you find their answers informative. The full set of reviews can be found here. We intend to run this series again in 2013 – get in touch with us if you’d like to participate.

 

 




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