Enterprise microblogging has been gaining in popularity in the last year. Companies like Socialtext, Socialcast, Status.net and others have developed some absolutely stunning and low cost enterprise platforms. Each of these platforms has a rich set of APIs and can be customized with varying degrees of flexibility. Some take their cues from existing enterprise software best practices while others are practically indistinguishable from consumer software. Many smaller organizations simply use consumer tools, such as Skype’s chat rooms, as their microblogging platform.
That is to say: There is a lot to choose from, and while you need to pick carefully, you can be assured there is most likely a reasonable solution for your organization out there.
As any of these vendors will tell you however, getting the software deployed is often the easy part. Questions of adoption, socialization and strategy quickly creep up. So do questions about integration and coexistence with other enterprise systems. Often there is a desire to ensure that the microblogging platform in place does not become and island unto itself, divorced from the realities of the rest of the enterprise.
To that end, several new vendors are extending microblogging in order to create a new interface for the enterprise. What if your existing enterprise systems, such as your ERP or CRM platform of choice, were to exist within a microblogging environment? The enterprise system becomes a collaborative entity empowered to add information and data to the stream when and where appropriate.
Three vendors have recently sparked my interest for what they are doing that goes beyond simple microblogging and collaboration. These companies are adding varying degrees of intelligence and integration to the microblogging concept in order to add more value to the everyday interactions we have inside our organizations.
Akibot – Private Beta
Akibot is described as “a robot” that lives in your enterprise microblogging stream. Akibot can be attached to Yammer, Socialcast, Socialtext or any other platform. Think of the concept as a sort of butler (I like that better than robot) for enterprise data and information. When someone shares something relevant, such as “I just met with ACME, INC and they are interested in our new line of widgets”, Akibot could do things such as check the available widget inventory, or update ACME, INC’s record in your CRM system.
These interactions can be customized so that they are tailored to your organization and the data you have available. Akibot will also remember old messages and dig them up when needed. An example from a past ReadWriteWeb article is
Another example goes like this: say a colleague posts a message stating “here is the latest Penske file http://xxxxxxxxx,” – pointing to the resource hosted on the company’s intranet. A week later, another user could ask “Does anyone know where the latest Penske file is?”, and Akibot could then respond with a message pointing to the location previously posted.
Brainpark – Available
Brainpark is a self contained platform which offers a small set of integrations with outside systems such as Salesforce, Sharepoint, Yammer and Basecamp. Brainpark is focused on understanding who in your organization is doing what. Brainpark then endeavours to make connections between people doing similar things and to help them learn from each other. This is done through the concept of “journeys.” When you are doing something, whether it is a task or completing a process, Brainpark sits alongside you and helps you create a sort of guidebook for how you are getting the job done. These tasks, strung together, then become a template for people who want to accomplish the same thing later on. Brainpark will watch each person’s status and will sometimes make recommendations when there is an existing “journey” that has been defined.
You might update your status to say “Working on a new training guide for our managers,” and Brainpark would respond with a link to a pre-defined set of tasks and information to help you develop a training guide. If there is something wrong with what is offered to you, you can edit the existing journey to add, edit or delete tasks.
The microblogging platform, whether it is Brainpark itself, or an integration with an existing platform, is the core to connecting the user to the right resources to help them get their job done.
Tibbr – Not yet released – In Beta
Tibbr is focused less on being a social environment and more of a new command-line for enterprise data. Unlike Akibot, but more like Brainpark, Tibbr is a self-contained platform that is meant to be the first point-of-contact for the user. Tibbr is focused on allowing enterprise systems to exist directly as first class entities in the enterprise microblog stream. Using a similar type of natural language processing as Akibot, when you ask a question or update your status on Tibbr, the software will allow another enterprise system to respond directly with the information you need.
Tibbr does seem to be the most hostile towards the “social” aspect of microblogging [“does it really matter where someone is having lunch?”] and it is why I have called it a command-line for enterprise systems. In the demo I saw, enterprise systems were the actual originators of messages on the system, which shows a much more machine-centric worldview than either Brainpark or Akibot, as well as Salesforce Chatter and others. Tibbr will probably fall more into an emerging “real time information display” category than “microblogging” going forward.
All social software deployed in the enterprise has the potential to create more more noise than signal and the inclusion of intelligence and information mining capabilities will be an important part of making productive use of these tools. The fine line that intelligent middleware will need to walk is one where the well intentioned filter could itself simply become a noisy distraction if it is not tuned properly to the needs of the customer and the user.