Despite all the alternatives available for workflow and project management, what workers typically do is "hack the crap out of their calendar" and assign tasks by passing around emails, Pfeil said. Sparqlight is the first tool he has found that is both better and simpler than those kludges.
As enterprise social networking tries to break into the mainstream, players like Jive Software and Yammer are tripping over themselves to prove that their systems boost productivity and streamline work processes. Sparqlight has partnered with Yammer as well as Google for single sign-on and for integrating some of their collaboration features, but Sparqlight makes the case that the emphasis needs to be less on the social and more on the enterprise and the work it needs to do.
[ In the current workplace, effective collaboration tools are more essential than ever. Read more at Collaborative Innovation Not Optional In Today's Economy. ]
Enterprise social networks "are not focused on getting work done--they're more about what I call social voyeurism," Sparqlight chief marketing officer Michael Weir said. "What we're doing is taking social and wrapping it around tasks you do every day and making them assignable, taggable, trackable, and measurable," he explained. "Those tasks can then be strung together to create an improvisational workflow." Tasks that don't require human intervention can also be automated through the tool.
Sparqlight is officially launching its product Wednesday, after previewing it at South by Southwest in April. Weir and CEO Brian Reisgen provided an overview in an interview last week.
The Sparqlight user interface borrows social software conventions like an activity stream and notifications from your contacts, but it is more tightly structured around assigning tasks and recording progress against them. Entering a task is a little like typing a status message, but with deadlines attached and task-centric super tags, such as #CB for close-of-business, or #CQ for close-of-quarter. It uses standard @ references for tagging other people.
That's nowhere near as structured as a traditional enterprise workflow or business process management tool, but removing some of the formality is kind of the point, Weir said. "Today's improvisational workflows don't fit that model."
DataStax's Pfeil agreed. Sparqlight is "social" in the sense of being an easy-to-use Web application "where it's really easy to interoperate with anyone in any organization," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time that's going to be another employee, but I could also just start sending you some things I need from you." That ability to stretch the workflow to include outsiders comes in handy when coordinating with a contractor, for example, or with a public relations agency.