The potential market of enterprise social collaboration is expected to multiply by ten over just the next four years, according to Forrester Research. But when “Bob in Marketing” shares some positive initial campaign statistics with his company’s Sales “Circle” on Google+ and schedules a follow up video Hangout on Air to gather live feedback, that’s not what’s on his mind. All that “Bob in Marketing” knows, is that there’s a way for him to share information in a collaborative stream within his existing apps environment that doesn’t involve jumping into another system, writing up a time-consuming mass email or calls around the enterprise to people who may or may not be there. His collaboration is social, specific, and effective as opposed to static and peripheral.
The social enterprise collaboration space is made up of many names now swept up by the larger IT providers: Yammer, Chatter, Jive and Quad to name a few. The landscape is cluttered to the point of confusion around who owns them, to what extent they have been integrated with their owners and how viable they are based on your enterprise investment in Salesforce, Cisco, Microsoft, etc. Beyond this, many platforms have been built for silos of the enterprise, like Sales or IT and are not a great experience for connecting the broad, far-reaching needs of an organization. Meanwhile, the smaller players are typically more vertical and SMB focused and don’t hold much confidence in the enterprise realm. All of this leads to tug-of-wars between CIO’s, CMO’s, CFO’s, HR, business and IT regarding strategic direction and investment.
Enter Google+, late to the Facebook, Twitter, etc. social party on the consumer side and seemingly filled to the brim with excitement- the young kid that was never invited and seemingly doesn’t have a clue. The platform was very nice and even different enough to be innovative, but really only adopted by specific circles such as techies, photographers and FB haters. The entrance was drawn out rather than grand, due to the invite-only release, the lack of iOS acknowledgment, no API info and other issues which had nearly everyone writing G+ off as another flop, a la Google Buzz or Wave.
But was this another Google Wave, or a Google Sleight-of-Hand? Google has a reputation to-date of taking applications that have been tried and tested in the consumer realm en mass, and ushering them into the enterprise (see also “consumerization of IT”, Wikipedia). Competitors and critics say that this “made-for-consumers-and-delivered-to-the-enterprise” approach is backwards, but many experts in the space are beginning to see what they think is an intentional Trojan Horse approach where the “freemiums” work out all of the kinks, endear the product, spread the word and “need” it at work (oh and BTW, BYOD is as conducive to this model as it is to Google’s cloud delivery model). Does everyone remember one of the greatest enterprise plays of our era, Gmail which now serves 40+ million businesses around the globe? Truth be told, this Google Trojan approach brings back an oft-quoted line from The Usual Suspects: “The greatest trick [he] ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” So, backwards or strategic?
Cut to today: Enterprise organizations, especially those already on Google Apps, have had a taste of Google+ and so far they really, really like it. We now see that the tools that are working together for the Enterprise in G+ like Hangouts, Docs, Circles (for Depts, Projects, Distro Groups), Search, and now even recently Events - are valuable pieces of the overall product, which can consolidate enterprise tools across many budgets including collaboration (expensive) and even UC (more expensive). The formula that makes G+ work is the sum of all of these features, plus the actual user experience. This of course equals the social piece: that organic connection that closes the gap between a faceless name and “Bob in Marketing” who’s from the same college, has worked in the background on common projects and happened to drive the product awareness that led to your most recent sale. Additionally, out of all of the enterprise social platforms out there, Google+ is the one that really seems to “get it” by leveraging actual real-time collaboration across time, space and device. Dennis Howlett of ZDNet said it best, “There will be the inevitable comparisons with Yammer, Chatter, tibbr, Streamwork and many others who think (wrongly) that this is just about social networks. In my world this is about getting things done and on the basis of what I see today, Google is on the right road...”
So the invitations are in the mail, but this party hasn’t quite started. As many organizations begin to see the potential for G+ in the Enterprise, they’re also beginning to see holes in the scorecard:
- What if “Bob in Marketing” accidentally shared that info with a vendor who also happens to service a competitor (or a Circle of Vendors)?
- What happens when an employee is fired and he/she still has access for sharing/ranting into the stream?
- What’s to keep company info from being shared outside of professional profiles?
- Overall, how do you manage G+ from an administrative and policy level rather than just a user level?
- How can you capture and retain information from a social stream, especially when the interaction may carry across departments, countries, etc?
- What if we’re planning a bday surprise cake for “Bob in Marketing” and he’s part of the Circle I need to plan with?
As a consulting organization centered around cloud (particularly Google cloud) solutions, one of the top questions asked of us here at White Stratus by enterprise CxO’s is when, exactly Google+ will be enterprise-ready. The unofficial word-on-the-street is that it may happen in the next 12-18 months, but not only are there rumors that Google+ acquisitions are actually now on hold, but Google’s iterative dev/release process can always lean towards demand in other areas of Google Apps.
Our answer to this problem in the Enterprise space is a platform that began as a solution commissioned by a client (one of the largest international retailers in the world), that emulates Google+ and not only has all of the needed security but adds integrated access to Google Apps tools like Mail, Contacts, Docs/Drive, resources like HR documentation/forms and even allows for the information to be migrated at some point down the road to either G+ (for the Enterprise) or another system. Our Google Social / Intranet Solution is built on Google solutions, making it both solid (CTO) and affordable (CFO) for the enterprise.
Now that word of this solution has trickled out to Google and their counterparts, we all but have a waiting list of enterprise organizations interested in demos for their teams, as this solution effectively sidesteps the need to create a costly external system in the interim and even stores streams and content for migration at a later date.
So now “Bob in Marketing” has a solution that not only meets his collaboration needs with associates, but can be managed and integrated in the enterprise: leveraging both the powerful enterprise ecosystem of Google Apps and an enterprise’s most valuable resource- its people.
"Collaboration will be the critical business competency of the internet age. It won't be the ability to fiercely compete, but the ability to lovingly cooperate that will determine success. Rather than focusing on stomping the competition into the ground, true leaders of the internet age will focus on creating value for their customers, intelligence and skill in their talent, and wealth for their investors and shareholders." - James M. Kouzes
For more information about our Google Social Enterprise solution:
Visit our website at www.whitestratus.com/wssolutions/social-enterprise or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by David Watts, Director of Business Development, White Stratus