Much has happened to bring social applications into the enterprise in the past few years. I recently spoke with eXo CEO Benjamin Mestrallet who shared his observations on this trend. First, a bit about eXo. Their new release, eXo Platform 3.0, provides a foundation for portal-based enterprise apps. It describes itself as a “user experience platform” for creating modern, user-centric Java applications that can be deployed on premise or in the cloud.
Benjamin said it has three main components. You can manage web sites. It is an application development platform and it can manage social interactions within the enterprise. We focused on this last capability. It provides what can be called a social portal. You can set up activity streams within it to integrate enterprise communicationTo enhance the interface for these streams, eXo recently launched an eXo plugin for Seesmic. The Seesmic desktop client works like Tweetdeck to set up columns to bring order to your activity streams. I think this is a great move as it took the use of Tweetdeck for Twitter to work for me and now I am a fan and heavy user. While eXo has microblogging features, these columns can aggregate more than the microblogging content. In addition to the microblogging capability, you can follow people as you do in Twitter and get feeds from objects such as sales leads or projects.
Benjamin said that they are seeing a new type of client. In the past most of their clients were large enterprises. Now much smaller companies are looking into the social aspects of company portals. There are also many government organizations looking into social tools within the enterprise. These new clients come with an awareness of social tools from the Web. They are comfortable with these types of tools. Benjamin said he is seeing a migration from work communication through email to activity streams. These streams are becoming the new online work place.
I find this migration interesting and encouraging. Many of the new social collaboration tools are enabling email integration as they feel that that is where workers are more comfortable. If the trend that Benjamin is seeing holds, this integration may become less necessary. I can certainly see the benefits of operating within a social tool versus email. It also makes sense that people who are familiar with Web tools like Facebook will choose to work within more social tools such as activity streams. I also know that this migration can be difficult for some who are very used to email.
Benjamin said that making an intranet more social increases adoption and engagement. Workers feel like they have greater ownership of the intranet and its content as they are providing more of it. Managers are able to more easily monitor what is happening within the enterprise and take action. Benjamin said that software vendors should be aware that social capabilities need to be at the core of content and collaboration platforms and not simply features. I can agree with this.
Activity streams can also be easily pushed through mobile devices, increasing their adoption and expanding their use cases. Putting work content into activity streams – rather than offering it through email – allows you to better track it, share it, and find it again. Benjamin closed by saying the advent of social capabilities is just the beginning and many more use cases and impacts remain to be uncovered. I would certainly agree here, as well.