Last fall, I started thinking out the various roles and approaches of social software vendors. I was intrigued by a conversation with with Duncan MacPherson, co-founder and co-CEO of Pareto Systems and Pareto Platform. Pareto’s web-based subscription model has been augmented with a free social networking platform called my8020.com. my8020.com implements social capabilities within the application:
- It allows a user to create networks and invite friends to join them. Membership in a network requires the approval of the network’s creator
- Users can also define themselves as “networks” that others can “join,” hence providing a friending/connecting capability that enables users to endorse each other and make introductions
- It provides users the ability to search for an existing network they are interested in joining
- It provides a private blog (journal)
- It lets users manage RSS feeds
- Users can message one another via the platform
I thought this was an interesting pick-up on bringing social elements into a niche application. Then this past week I spoke with A.G. Lambert, VP of Saba. Saba, with the Human Capital Institute, published just this last week a research report* on opportunities for adoption of corporate social networking. Currently in Beta, SabaSocial brings social features as those listed above into the context of Saba’s talent management system. Historically an eLearning vendor, Saba purchased Centra in 2005 to become one of the leading vendors of talent management solutions. A key aspect of these systems is that they maintain information about individuals’ skills and courses taken while managing the flow of courseware itself. SabaSocial can build on the richness of these profiles as it adds the social element.
I posted some time ago a taxonomy I borrowed from Tony Byrne, that summarizes the different paths by which technology vendors bring our social sides to life. There are the “pure-play” vendors, Facebook and LinkedIn, that start as standalone social networking sites and are looking to build APIs that corporations can plug into. Next come the social/collaboration vendors (like Jive) that start with the assumption that work is social social networking features and integrate work capabilities (project and task management, groups, discussion forums, and so on) onto their social networking platforms. So this offering of Saba that brings the social element into an enterprise-wide application looks like another signal that there may come a time when the lack of social networking in an application may present the barrier to entry of a product into the market.
It is interesting to see how these two vendors approach the social network integration. It’s not just in the selection of specific social tools to bring to their customers, it’s also in the understanding that networks are how works get done in successful businesses. As MacPherson said when I spoke with him, the social networking mindset embodied in my8020.com is “not to connect with the masses, but to manage my core relationships and make it possible for them to generate business for each other.” In the case of Saba, the social element adds richness to employee profiles and makes critical expertise searches more effective.
“Work is conversation” is a tenet I adopted over fifteen years ago in Digital management workshops based on the work of Werner Erhardt (see interview excerpted from Industry Week of June 1987). Nothing happens outside of speaking and listening. So the advent of social networking — conversational capability — into all the tools we have makes perfect sense. Work happens when ideas are being connected, relationships are being developed, learning and innovation occur, and the right people are found at the right time in the right context.