Recently I spoke with Dave Hersh, CEO of Jive Software, about his company’s latest product, called Clearspace. Some of you will be familiar with Jive’s popular RTC server, Openfire, and the Spark IM client. Where those offer PC-and now VoIP-based communications, Clearspace is designed to be a source for information for the enterprise—whether that info is content- or people-based.
Clearspace includes a variety of tools, including workspaces, discussions, wikis, blogs, presence-based communications, document and people management, and notifications. And it looks really cool—all the benefits of a wikis and blogs, but with added content management and enterprise-grade security and admin capabilities. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: IT managers want enterprise 2.0 software that supports their needs, as well as the needs of their end users. They won’t simply let end users download and deploy consumer applications, and nor should they. (OK—they will let them do it today; but once IT decides to make social networking a part of its enterprise toolbox, they’ll want to deploy an enterprise-grade solution.)
Clearspace has an elegant interface, it’s easy to use, and it appears to be easy to manage and support. But it also addresses some of the key issues that virtual enterprises face. One of the things I really like about it is how much emphasis the product puts on the human aspect of collaboration. The developers realize that everyone in an organization has something to add, but that not everyone is able or willing to communicate their information in the same way. Giving them the space and tools to do so is critical. Also critical is giving employees the opportunity to “bump into each other” and interact in unexpected and unplanned ways—sometimes, the best ideas come from people in different departments and business areas, people you may not even be aware of, especially in a very large organization.
Clearspace also takes a cue from reputation-based consumer sites like eBay, letting users develop reputations for the value of their knowledge and the content they provide. That ensures that people use the system in ways that benefit others as well as themselves. And when I spoke with Hersh, he made is clear that companies must make information sharing and collaboration part of the overall expectation for employees. One Clearspace customer told him getting people to engage with the software is simple: They hand out $50 checks every month to the employees who best use the technology. Hersh also recommends that companies tie usage to performance reviews and raises, drawing a clear line between collaboration and corporate success.