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4/29/2011
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SAS Institute Creates Internal Facebook With Socialcast

Socialcast offers support for internal company activity streams that mimic the news feed on a Facebook page and is available as a service or as a software appliance.

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Like a lot of companies, SAS Institute has been watching what has been happening in social media and trying to figure out the best way of bringing some of the energy and spontaneous interaction inside its organization.

After a couple of what now look like false starts with Yammer and Salesforce.com's Chatter, SAS has cast its lot with Socialcast. In a phone interview, Karen Lee, senior director of corporate communications, and Becky Graebe, corporate communications manager, explained why. They said the decision was not based on any particularly chummy relationship or partnership, but on the set of criteria SAS had laid out for its internal communication and integration needs.

SAS had started down the path of creating social applications based on Microsoft SharePoint "when the project manager stumbled across Socialcast," Lee said. "We realized it might be a better fit for us, given the timeframe in which we wanted to deliver on our requirements. One of the things that was important to me was that employees be able to reach success with communication through the system pretty quickly. I didn't want it to be something that would take us eight months to a year to get out, and by the time you get it out, it's old."

SAS started out in 1976 as a specialist in statistical analysis software and has evolved into one of the leading business intelligence and data analytics vendors. Based in North Carolina, it remains privately held and independent, with about 11,800 employees. For the last two years, Fortune magazine has rated SAS the #1 place to work in the United States. With operations in 62 countries, it also has a need to support collaboration on a global scale.

As you might expect of a technology company, SAS already has plenty of Web-based collaboration in place, including internal wikis and about 600 intranet blogs. What it saw in Socialcast was the opportunity to spark conversations that link to all those other resources.

"Seeing the way communication was growing outside the company at a very rapid rate with social media, we asked, how do we bring some of that inside?" Lee said. "So we said, let's bring a Facebook application inside the company--and that's exactly what we did."

Socialcast is one of several products promising that Facebook-like experience, starting with support for internal company activity streams that mimic the news feed on a Facebook user's home page. At the same time, these products need to provide more enterprise-specific functions like integration with a company's identity-management and document-management systems. The Socialcast product is available as either software as a service or as a software appliance, and SAS opted for an on premises deployment using the appliance.

Although SAS decided it could not easily meet its requirements with the social features of SharePoint alone, Socialcast's SharePoint integration was an important feature. The Socialcast user interface can be embedded in a SharePoint portal as a WebPart component. Socialcast has also introduced a premium feature called Reach that makes it possible to embed Socialcast widgets for sharing, commenting on, or liking Web pages managed by SharePoint and lots of other Web content systems. (The "Like" button modeled on Facebook can actually be named something else if an organization thinks "Recommend" or some other label sounds more professional).

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