Moving Social Networking into the Enterprise

There are a myriad of applications that allow you to share your thoughts with your ever growing social network. However, with the current raft of Social Networking tools, I struggle with keeping my personal life, friends and network separate from my business network. For example, I don’t really care where one of my connections is having lunch. I might be interested in whom they are lunching with and any interesting titbit that arose in the conversation but that is as far as it goes. It seems to me that social utilities are more often designed to build social connections based on people – and only people. In a business context a subject can be any titbit of information that’s important to my business. I want to know what’s happening to a sales opportunity. I want to keep up to date on the progress of client projects. I want to know when invoices are raised. I want to know the outcomes from a team meeting. In short, I want my business data to keep me informed and I want to use the social networking tools and concepts that I have grown to depend on to achieve this.

Late last year Salesforce.com announced Chatter, “The real-time Collaboration Cloud”.  They described Chatter as “a brand-new way to collaborate with people at work.” They went further; Chatter is “where the status of important projects and deals are automatically pushed to you – so you are always in the loop.”

You can imagine my rush to join the beta test. My company Axispoint is a leading Salesforce.com implementation partner so we were able to convince them to allow us to evaluate the product prior to general release. We have been running Chatter in our production environment for nearly a year with mixed results. Chatter has been useful across the enterprise but really only provides status updates when Leads, Opportunities, etc., are modified. Status updates from colleagues also appear when they remember to provide them. Interestingly they never seem to forget to provide regular and frequent updates to their status on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

So why is Chatter failing to live up to the hype?

When Marc Benioff announced Chatter back in November 2009 he described it as “Facebook and Twitter for enterprises” but according to SocialBeat he then went on to say that he doesn’t want us to think of Chatter as a social network but rather as a collaboration platform because “customers are more willing to pay for collaboration software.” Perhaps this mixed messaging and blatant drive to dip into our pockets are part of the reason?

My personal view is that Chatter is failing to deliver on its promises because of technical issues rather than simple over-hyped marketing. Salesforce is neither a messaging platform nor an open integration platform.  Messaging needs to be made to work consistently and integrations need to be built, or better still, open up the integration points so that we can build the connectors, to expand Chatter’s reach.

Chatter is also entirely Salesforce centric. In order to use it and to gain access to any of the information and status updates I have to be a Salesforce user.  I cannot use Chatter for my post-sales project delivery team to collaborate with my clients because they would need to have access to my Salesforce instance.

Despite its shortcomings we continue to use Chatter because we haven’t found a better alternative… possibly until now!

Today, I received an overview of tibbr. Described as:

“tibbr™ is the first communication tool specifically built for the workplace that allows the right information to find you.”

I was immediately struck by the similarity with Chatter. However, after further reading, I came to understand that tibbr is based on Tibco’s real-time publish and subscribe capabilities and is built to be massively scaleable while also encompassing an enterprise ready security model.

The BPM software development team here at Axispoint tell me that Tibco’s messaging and integration capabilities are superb and will easily allow us to create the connectors we want to deliver information from across the enterprise in the form and at the frequency we want.

I am about to pick up the phone and call Roman Bartik, National account Manager at Tibco and the tibbr product manager to see if we can get an evaluation copy. If I am successful, I will post my review on this blog after we have given it a thorough going over!

About Peter Borner

Peter is an entrepreneur and successful business leader. Currently leading a consultancy firm specialising in technical diligence for M&A and advising global firms on IT consolidation and migration to consumption based costing through the use of Cloud Technologies.

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1 comments
Roman Bartik
Roman Bartik

Hi Peter- Read you blog and look forward to speaking with you. Roman

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