Vendors No Longer Shy Away from Facebook Comparisons


There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, when some old fogies -- including me -- thought of the idea of Facebook in a work setting with scorn, if we thought of it at all.


My, how times have changed. While many executives still worry that their employees will waste more time using collaboration tools than they'll gain in productivity improvements, three-quarters of execs recently surveyed by Kelton Research plan to increase the use of collaboration technologies in the coming year.


They'll have plenty of tools from which to choose. The vendors selling them aren't shying away from Facebook comparisons; they're encouraging them.


Nicholas Cumins, an SAP executive I interviewed about the company's nascent Sales On-Demand application demonstrated at its recent Sapphire conference, told me Sapphire attendees commented that the app's interface "looked a lot like Facebook." The app incorporates technology from StreamWork, SAP's collaborative decision-making environment. IT Business Edge's Loraine Lawson wrote about StreamWork earlier this year when it was still called 12Sprints. (I interviewed another SAP exec about StreamWork recently and will share his comments in a post later this week.)


StreamWork will be a collaboration contender, along with Microsoft's SharePoint, Google Wave and Salesforce.com's Chatter. I wrote about one company's use of Chatter last week. Guess what? The company's CEO described Chatter as "a combination between Twitter, Facebook and Google Wave, focused on the enterprise." In a commentary published on TechCrunch, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff asked, "Why isn't all enterprise software like Facebook?"


IBM is also in the mix with an updated, cloud-based version of its Lotus software. Like Salesforce with its Force.com development platform, IBM has ambitious aspirations of creating a business process ecosystem in the cloud, IT Business Edge's Mike Vizard wrote last week.


Yet another collaboration entry is in the pipeline. As eWEEK reports, Cisco will introduce its enterprise collaboration platform at next week's Enterprise 2.0 conference. Called Quad, it will incorporate social features including profiles, updates, video communications, microblogging, posts, people search, RSS feeds and auto-tagging. According to the article, Quad will support integration with Microsoft SharePoint and Exchange, and EMC's Documentum product. Of course it will integrate with Cisco products as well, including Cisco Unified Communications solutions, WebEx conferencing, and Show and Share social video technology.


One feature that sounds especially neat is MyView, a customizable space that enables users to view people and projects they're following, check the calendar, communities and activities they're involved in, and initiate communications via instant messaging, e-mail or video conference.