Saturday, June 19, 2010

Collaboration in Web 2.0 Era is changing. Are you keeping up?

If you haven't noticed lately, the way we communicate is evolving. Phone calls and emails are losing ground to IM, SMS, Tweets, and Wall Posts. This is true in both social and business networks.

While Tweets and Wall Posts are great (only if you're insanely bored) for keeping up with every minute action of friends and family and have been used by businesses for B2C interactions, they lack the privacy and control required for inter-enterprise or B2B collaboration. 

Also, when it comes to the business communication and collaboration, we've been missing an important collaborator, namely, the business applications. That's right, we need, Eloqua, SAP, Oracle Apps,.... to proactively communicate events and collaborate with us too. It's a symbiotic relationship that up until now has not been working very smoothly.

To solve this problem, Salesforce introduced their latest and greatest innovation, Chatter, at Dreamforce '09. Despite the lengthy introduction by it's passionate creator, Marc Benioff, it was clear that Salesforce is onto something that will have a big impact on how we work every day. With Chatter for Salesforce, you can keep track of any changes you subscribe to without having to set up complex workflow rules or repeatedly check the object(s) of interest for changes. Marc Benioff is admittedly copying Facebook and Twitter's model and applying it to the business world.

Seems like Lars Daalgard has his eye on the ball too. Last month, SuccessFactors acquired CubeTree, a business/social networking provider. Where as Chatter is tightly coupled and integrated into Salesforce, today, CubeTree is not application specific but offers a rich set of APIs that will allow for easy integration. I suspect that it will be natively integrated with the rest of the SFSF suite in the coming Qs.

While Chatter and (integrated) CubeTree will be great for all events occurring within their respective applications, they will require integration to other applications within the enterprise to complete the collaboration loop. And while monitoring data changes in applications can be easy straightforward, you'll need to know which corresponding object in Salesforce (as an example) to relate the change events too. Which means, you'll still need to synchronize your base objects before SAP can send you notifications via Chatter.

For business execution, you need collaboration between people and systems. For systems to collaborate, you'll need to be able to speak their language and translate to human speak.