Tibbr 3.0 Marries Enterprise, Social Technologies

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Execs Weigh in on Collaboration

End users are looking to IT for tools that will help them increase productivity across what in many cases are sharply reduced work forces, but execs are expressing distrust of collaboration tools.

When Marilyn Monroe married playwright Arthur Miller in 1956, few thought the relationship between the sexy bombshell and the intellectual would last. (And of course, it didn't.)


Some skeptics may believe the combination of existing enterprise systems and social technologies will suffer a similar fate. It's hard to make marriages between sexy and staid work. Still, that doesn't keep people from trying. In the enterprise, I believe pairing social technologies with business process management will increase the odds of success.


Earlier this year, wowed by some product demonstrations from BPM software providers Appian and Tibco, I trotted out some hyperbole borrowed from former music critic Jon Landau and said enterprise collaboration's future would be closely tied to BPM. After all, thanks to its focus on end-to-end processes, BPM already employs a more horizontal approach to enterprise activities than most other applications. And many companies have already integrated BPM into their existing legacy applications.


I'm obviously not the only one who thinks so. In its first four months, 20 companies with a presence in 25 countries have signed up to use tibbr, Tibco's collaboration software, which I wrote about in February. I just saw a Tibco webcast that contains two pretty compelling customer testimonies, both of which illustrated the benefit of being able to quickly tap the appropriate enterprise expertise, often a tough task at large global companies with dispersed work forces.


Randy Wagner, a drilling advisor from oil and gas exploration company Apache Corporation, spoke about the value of being able to photograph drill bits that have worn down while drilling rock and put them into a tibbr stream, where experts from around the company can view them and offer their opinions and suggestions on ways employees on the rig may be able to reduce wear. Jon Scarpelli, the VP of technology for systems integrator Ciber, said when a team member from Denmark posted an inquiry via tibbr about existing demonstrations of mobile applications, she received apps from colleagues in four countries within three days. She was able to do a client demo of her own "without writing a lick of code," Scarpelli said.

Tibco just added a slew of new unified communications capabilities with version 3.0 of tibbr. Ram Menon, Tibco's chief marketing officer and EVP of worldwide strategy, described it as an effort to "unify more of the communications tools you need to speed up and improve the flow of work." A feature called tibCast, for instance, allows users to invite colleagues to a videoconferencing session and automatically records and stores the session so it can be replayed for those who miss it, a capability demonstrated in the video by Sriram Chakravarthy, director of products for tibbr and a senior product manager at Tibco.

Tibco founder and CEO Vivek Ranadive showed off tibVoice, a feature that allows users to post voicemail messages on specified tibbr walls and also to connect the message with specific subjects. "I am a happy user. I call it 1-800-tibbr," Ranadive said. Such voice capabilities are especially important, Ranadive said, because "the desktop of the future won't be on your desk, but on a cellphone in your pocket." Tibbr supports the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry platforms.

Chakravarthy got to demonstrate a number of other cool features, including SmartWidgets that allow users to access tibbr without exiting enterprise other applications. Menon said the widgets were created based on client feedback that many users preferred to work within the applications they use most often rather than logging into a separate collaboration system. More important, said Menon, the widgets highlight discussions relevant to a task at hand. "Adding a dumb activity stream is not that interesting. We've made the widgets context aware, so they know the pages being browsed." So, for instance, someone reviewing purchase orders in an enterprise system would see tibbr posts related to those specific purchase orders.

Chakravarthy also showed a useful integration with SharePoint, demonstrating how users could simultaneously search for documents stored in SharePoint and related information and conversations in tibbr. The feature is bi-directional, allowing tibbr users to directly post back into SharePoint repositories. This feature is designed to overcome what Menon called the "where is the darned file syndrome," which is frustrating any time but especially in ad hoc collaboration sessions when "timing is everything."

Reinforcing my thought that collaboration would and should be closely tied to BPM, Menon said, "It's not enough to just like or share something, you need to be able to act." This latest iteration of tibbr gives users the ability to complete an action related to a tibbr activity stream without logging into another enterprise system. Chakravarthy pulled up a tibbr stream showing his and his team's expense reports from an Oracle system. He then approved an expense request from within tibbr.