A colleague from my former days with the Microsoft Architecture Strategy Team, Simon Guest, just joined a company called Neudesic. I just read an interesting article on his blog entitled “Feeling the Pulse at Neudesic!” which triggered a few thoughts on how social will transform cloud providers into the next stage of the web for enterprises.
We are already seeing this from vendors like Salesforce.com with Chatter, released June 22nd this year. They have pioneered this usage for enterprises. Salesforce has really shown thought leadership here in baking this into their core platform in a real way. Directionally they see Chatter as the center of the Salesforce world. Hoping to reduce the dependency on technologies such as email and IM in the form of “living” feeds that describe the activities of enterprise. Additionally, this can be viewed across the company so information has no boundaries. I really like this direction and I too see this as the future.
This brings us to the news of the Pulse solution. Neudesic’s Pulse started by partnering with Microsoft to integrate social features into Microsoft Dynamics CRM but now it extends both platform and functional support. Supporting not only Microsoft CRM but also SharePoint and Salesforce.com. Like Chatter, Pulse was inspired by popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, Pulse is an enterprise social networking product that creates an interconnected network of people and systems throughout the organization to help keep information fresh an relevant.
Simon describes Pulse as:
In essence, Pulse is Facebook for the enterprise. If you’ve ever used Facebook or another social networking site, the feeds, profiles, walls, likes, follows, etc. will all feel very similar.
One of the main differences however is that because the social network is inside the walls of an enterprise, the possibilities for extending become so much more interesting. Not only can you “friend” other colleagues, but you can also “friend” systems. Like to know when business is won or lost? “Friend” the CRM system, and if someone updates an opportunity, you get a pulse notification. Similarly, if someone joins or leaves the company, the HR system “pulses” about the change. Are the IT Systems going down for routine maintenance? You’ve guessed it… another pulse! I’m sure there are many additional directions that this could be taken – just think of the countless internal systems that we habitually visit every day. What if each of them could send push notifications into a central social network?
While the above statements provide the “cool factor” to this technology I think there is more to the story here to highlight. What is really great about this technology over SalesForce.com’s offering are these core differentiators:
- Potential – This is by far the most important aspect here. The potential of integrating a range of solutions rather than just one primarily is a huge differentiator. The information is king, not the enabling technologies. So if there are cloud platforms that lock you into just there information sets and not others it demishes the potential greatly. So solutions that embrace multiple information sets by other vendors like Microsoft will prevail.
- Platform Independence – I have the freedom to choose which platform I want to make social. Combination of vendors, platforms and repositories on premise or cloud based can be chosen. Just like with development technologies, we live in a hybrid world of a variety of different solution enabled technologies. While companies could make big bets on CRM solutions in the cloud we have to ask ourselves if we are going to put all of our socially aware capable solutions there? If not (and I believe this is the case), then we should chose solutions like Pulse that deliver that platform independence.
- Avoidance of Vendor & Platform Lock-In – With technologies like Chatter, you are locked-in to the Force.com platform. While you can integrate to it there is a great deal of flexibility that is lost. Additionally, if one day your organization chooses to move on to the next big technology solution that replaces this capability your feeds, functionality and data are locked in Chatter. Salesforce does have API’s to retrieve the raw data but context and all the application logic you have built will be lost.
- Total Cost of Ownership – Investment for a solution like Pulse is significantly lower if enabled across the enterprise and solutions. I don’t have to make a enterprise license agreement with one vendor to see the benefits of making my enterprise socially aware. This can be a multimillion dollar investment for an organization and is a tough sell for social capabilities, especially if it is the first foray into social.
- Salesforce Inclusive Partnerships – Salesforce just doesn’t have much love for Microsoft or any other vendor not part of the Salesforce buddy system. While this isn’t a reason not to choose a vendor it should be a strong warning sign. Like it or not Microsoft owns the enterprise productivity desktop market today. I can’t count how many business folks I talk to that live by Excel, Word and PowerPoint. As a vendor with such large potential impact on companies it is their ethical responsibility to be aware of this and to reduce the loss of productivity by acknowledging solutions in the MSFT productivity stake and not working against it.
In my mind those are the primary differentiators that really make this solution exciting. This post isn’t to do a formal comparison or to disprove the merits of the Chatter solution but rather highlight new solutions and their unique value proposition in making solutions socially aware.