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3/15/2012
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BroadVision Promotes Hybrid Public-Private Enterprise Social Networking

BroadVision's Clearvale collaboration system adds Conduits for bringing customers or partners into an internal conversation as guest users.

Enterprise Social Networks: A Guided Tour
Enterprise Social Networks: A Guided Tour
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
BroadVision is broadening its enterprise social networking platform beyond private conversations to include public and semi-private ones.

As a company with roots in previous waves of e-commerce and portal technology, BroadVision has established a new specialty in social software with its Clearvale collaboration system for both private and customer-facing communities. Earlier this week, BroadVision announced a series of Clearvale enhancements including analytics, task management, and SharePoint integration. Director of product strategy Richard Hughes spoke about all of those as being important but put the most emphasis on the ability to support hybrid public-private collaborations.

[ How do you make social intelligence more intelligent? See 10 Ways To Make Hay From Customer Feedback. ]

In social software, "a lot of the talk and a lot of the products are very business-to-consumer related," BroadVision Director of Product Strategy Richard Hughes said. "The [business-to-business] world is much more complex, where you're dealing with lots of people at the client, lots of people at the company. We believe we have a unique ability to create multiple networks, with overlap between them."

BroadVision users now will be able to create public extensions of private collaboration spaces, called Zones, or collaboration groups called Conduits that bring internal and external collaborators together more selectively. "A Conduit is a variation on a community, which we clearly mark as 'there be guests here,' " Hughes said.

Like the old mapmaker's warning, "Here, there be dragons," this tells enterprise users they are sailing off the edge of the intranet world and need to watch what they say more closely.

Most organizations are more sophisticated in their public social media than they are in its internal use, but both are needed to create a true social business, Hughes argued.

The idea of bridging public and employee social communities seems to be gaining steam, with Jive Software also announcing a customer service solution that spans the two.

Meanwhile, BroadVision is improving analytics for activity within the enterprise social network to provide "real metrics on how much people are making use of these things" – not just how much people are posting, but how much they are interacting, Hughes said. "Activity without connectivity is not social, that's just broadcasting. That can be a useful metric to understand how social people are being, or whether they're just taking their old portal habits and reapplying them in a social network."

Speaking of portals, SharePoint is everywhere even though "we very rarely find it entrenched as a social solution," Hughes said. Enterprise users don't want social software to replace the user interface of SharePoint, but they do expect users to be able to incorporate SharePoint content into social conversations, he said. BroadVision's strategy is to allow the conversation to weave back and forth between Clearvale and SharePoint, with "Clearvale to be the platform that hosts the discussion," he said.

A new Clearvale Tasks feature will further reinforce the idea that a social network can be a place to get work done, not just talk about it. Hughes described Tasks as "a lightweight workflow capability," not something intended to replace enterprise business process management systems.

Among the users of Clearvale is QuickLogic Corp., a developer and marketer of low-power semiconductors used in mobile devices. "When we initially looked around, we wanted something that met our specific needs and was easily deployable and maintainable with a low workload," said Paul M. Karazuba, a senior product marketing manager at QuickLogic. Clearvale matched those requirements because it was a cloud-based solution, "and at the time Salesforce [Chatter] was not ideal for what we were looking for," he said.

The biggest payoff has been in collaboration between members of the technical staff, where people with the same or related specialties are often scattered across "six or seven countries around the world, where just because of time zones it's damn near impossible for them to talk on the phone," Karazuba said. An enterprise social network makes it easier for them to ask each other for help and get answers, he said. "You can do that over email, but it's not as effective and harder to keep track of who is doing what."

Karazuba said he is interested in the new capabilities BroadVision is introducing for inviting in guest users, particularly as a way of giving potential employees the company is recruiting a way of interacting with current employees.

"The idea of being able to bring in customers is an attractive thing, too, if we can figure out the right way to do that," Karazuba said. One challenge would be doing it in a way that avoided sharing of information between customers who might be competitors, he said. "Providing real-time access to employees or engineers would be an attractive thing for us, but I think that's much further down the line" in terms of priorities, he said.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

The Enterprise Connect conference program covers the full range of platforms, services, and applications that comprise modern communications and collaboration systems. It happens March 26-29 in Orlando, Fla. Find out more.

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