In Search Of Enterprise Social Media Integration - InformationWeek
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David F Carr
David F Carr
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In Search Of Enterprise Social Media Integration

I went looking for enterprise application architects who are integrating with social feeds and frameworks for the "Designing Social Applications" session at Enterprise 2.0. I found something a little different.

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When I was organizing an Enterprise 2.0 panel discussion on "Designing Social Applications," one of my goals was to recruit participants from enterprise IT, not from vendors.

So how did I wind up with one person from Jive Software and another from a social software startup? First of all, please believe me when I say you will get an enterprise perspective in this session (Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 8:45 a.m. as part of the technology leadership track at Enterprise 2.0 in Santa Clara).

One of my panelists, Ryan Rutan, was working at National Instruments when I first contacted him--he was already an active member of the Jive developer community who I found listed in the program for a user's conference, but not yet an employee. He warned me that he was about to become a Jive employee, and I decided that was all right. After all, Jive wanted him for the same reason I wanted him: for his perspective on how social software fits into the enterprise.

One of the projects Rutan worked on at National Instruments, which is still in progress, involved embedding modernized user interfaces connected to legacy systems inside the Jive framework. In his view, enterprise social networks such as Jive "are kind of what portals should have been."

The story with Aaron Aycock is a little different. I got on the phone with someone I was thinking of as a vendor and, after just scratching the surface, realized I was talking to just the kind of enterprise IT innovator I had been looking for. Aaron is the founder and CEO of CubeVibe, which offers a social software product that is one of the finalists in the Enterprise 2.0 Launch Pad competition.

Turns out Aycock is also the programmer, designer, chief cook and bottle washer for CubeVibe. The product is an impressive Web service he whipped together on nights and weekends, leveraging the productivity of Ruby on Rails and some high-quality design templates. He has a day job as vice president of IT and enterprise application development at TRX, a travel technology company--and one of his first beta customers. About a year ago, Aycock went to the annual HR Technology Conference, shopping for a tool to manage employee performance and feedback tracking. He came away dissatisfied with what he saw on the market and convinced he could do better. "I started designing what became CubeVibe on the plane ride home," he said.

In October, Aycock returned to the same conference to see CubeVibe recognized as one of the most innovative applications at the show. Although he initially thought to target small-to-midsize companies, he has been attracting departments of some larger ones like Coca-Cola to the beta program as well, he said. "I got a lot bigger logos than I thought I would."

The application is hosted on Heroku, a Ruby-friendly application hosting platform that was acquired by last year, and features integrations with Jive and Yammer, with an integration for Chatter also in the works.

[Social apps and projects require a different toolset than traditional app development. See Why Enterprises Should Study Social Experience Design.]

Aycock hopes to launch the production version of CubeVibe in January, which is about when he figures he will need to figure out how he is going to turn it into a company with investors and a payroll. Aycock said he is fortunate that the leaders of his company, being entrepreneurs themselves, have encouraged his pursuits, worked out clear terms for ownership of the software he has been developing on his own time, and are lined up to be his first customers should he decide to go for startup glory. TRX is already planning to use CubeVibe to replace Success Factors, one of the leaders in Web-based performance tracking and recognition.

As an enterprise IT developer, even if you don't decide to give up your day job, Aycock said you should understand creating social software means taking on an entrepreneurial mindset. "You need to get comfortable with the same kinds of terms and adoption patterns, and understand things like conversion funnels," he said.

In other words, a corporate Enterprise 2.0 developer needs to court users the same way a consumer Web 2.0 developer does. The main theme of our panel discussion will be understanding social experience design principles.

What is it that makes an application social? Embedding it in Jive is not necessarily enough. There are plenty of crude and clunky Facebook applications and page tabs that appear on the site, proliferating even faster since Facebook began allowing iFrame integration of essentially any Web application. What makes the difference between a clunker on Jive, Facebook, or anywhere else and an application that goes viral and takes over the world?

The third member of our panel is someone I've written about before: Jonathan Leblanc, author of Programming Social Applications. LeBlanc works for eBay's X.commerce business and before that was at Yahoo, so he is not an enterprise guy per se. However, he has been addressing enterprise concerns as a member of the OpenSocial board of directors. He brings a good understanding of what makes Web and social applications work, both at a technical level and the psychological level of what makes social applications tick and users click.

Our brainstorming session before the conference was great, and I'm betting Tuesday's session will be even better.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard

Attend Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara, Nov. 14-17, 2011, and learn how to drive business value with collaboration, with an emphasis on how real customers are using social software to enable more productive workforces and to be more responsive and engaged with customers and business partners. Register today and save 30% off conference passes, or get a free expo pass with priority code CPHCES02. Find out more and register.

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