Embrace, Social Business Software; product of cocreation

2013 – The IT company Malengo started to cooperate with a consultancy firm named Vetellus. Together they developed Embrace, social business software, that they put on the market in 2011. At the moment the enterprise Malengo has 50 employees; three years ago it had only 15 workers.


About three years ago Martijn Weesje organised a ‘pizza-evening’; he wanted to brainstorm with some people about a new intranet. His firm Malengo produced Intranets for client organisations for several years, but he was not satisfied with that product. ‘I thought it were useless things’ he says in his office in Groningen. ‘The people hardly use it and it does not contribute to the sharing of knowledge in the organisation.’ Durings his holidays he thought that you actually have to find out Intranet again, but how? Therefor he organized the pizza-evening.

That evening he met Frank Smit, partner at a consultancy firm and so it began. Weesjes: ‘in this conversation we found out that if you want to do something new with Intranet you have to change the culture of an organisation. It is not the technique but the behavior of the people that determines the success of Intranet. Actually we knew that, but we are technicians. We need someone from outside who helps us to operate with that knowledge. It took two years and a lot of pizza-evenings to develop a concept that was good enough for the two firms to put it on the market., with the name Embrace. The basis of this product is the idea that social media make it possible for anyone to communicate with everybody in and outside the organisation.

Smit: ‘That is a real thing in an organisation since you cross hierarchical and organizational borders. What will you meet? How do you handle confidential information? And what work processes can you introduce in the system?’ Weesjes: ‘For example you can pass all the questions that come in at a help desk of a service company and that they cannot answer themselves to all others in the organisation. This would make it possible for all present instead for only a small group to think about the answer. However the question is: will people actually do so?’ How do you stimulate that? That are difficult questions that we were not able to answer at first.’

Open innovation

Since it was such a new and unknown area, Weesjes and Smit decided to start the product development as an open innovation process. Smit: ’We involved as much different people as possible: researchers, specialists on specific areas, users and software developers. That mend more pizza-evenings, sounding board groups meetings, meetings with users. “Just tell us, how does it look like? How will it help you and how will it change your work?”’ Weesjes: ‘By involving as much different people as possible you get further than when you try to develop it all alone. When I only look in my own network I will get the same sort of people and the same sort of ideas. By connecting our networks and involve people from outside real new products sprung. That costed more time and energy, but it delivered a full grown product that we could put on the market under the name Embrace, in 2011.

Besides this process of cocreation changed the two firms Malengo and Vetellus as well. Smit: ‘We experience that in the questions people ask us, we have learned how you can use the principles of social media to influence behavior in organisations. We will use that actively in the future and we expect new opportunities.’ Weesjes: ‘Malengo is three times as big as when we started this, we were 15 and are about 50 now. We carry out bigger projects and are involved in improving the primary process of clients more often than before.  Thanks to the cooperation with Vetellus; that gave us new insights in organizing that we can use in the IT projects that we still execute. Besides we have learned to ask for the question behind the question. That makes that we can deliver what the client wants better and faster. And it has changed our people and the way of working a lot.’


The firm Malengo has growed from 15 to ca. 50 employees now. Together with Vetellus the firm developed a new concept: social business software. The workers of Malengo are involved in bigger client projects and more often than before in the development of the primary process of the clients.


Firms website: https://www.embracesbs.com/

Themes: Co-creation. Innovation and innovation capacity, Open innovation, SME

Sector: IT-services, creative industry