The organization has more than 500 employees in all 50 states, and it works with hospitals in many small rural towns. Chakkarapani says that since the organization launched Socialtext in August 2010, communication and collaboration among far-flung employees and managers have improved significantly. With the new platform, team members have been able to get quicker updates on projects, share ideas more easily, and work together more productively.
Many other organizations are rushing to add social tools like tweets, blogs, and status updates as well. A 2010 survey from InsightExpress found that 77 percent of global businesses expected to increase their investment in collaboration tools over the next year, with India and China being the most enthusiastic adopters.
While many companies see the value of collaboration tools in breaking down informational and functional silos, they have trouble determining which tools will work best for their organization and employees. Many staff members want the freedom to use the tools they like best with little oversight from the central IT department, but that often results in a hodgepodge of unsupported apps.
An even bigger issue is that most popular tools do little more than encourage people to blab about work. Socialtext is instead helping people get work done. It showcases productivity.
In 2010, Socialtext launched an initiative called Socialtext Connect, which encourages third-party developers to use its application programming interface (API) to seamlessly pull enterprise-level updates into the activity stream. Companies can build software agents that listen for certain events. When an order closes in Salesforce.com or a document is edited in SharePoint, the activity stream can display that fact.
In many ways, it is analogous to the way Facebook’s News Feed can pull information from third-party sites, says Lee. For example, a Socialtext update might read, ‘John updated the latest CRM record for the Acme Corporation account.’ When clicked on, that could take someone to a Salesforce.com record to learn more. Under the message in Socialtext, colleagues might have a conversation about what steps they must take to win that account.
“If you’re a CRM or ERP vendor, it has been fashionable to add social features onto your application, such as with Salesforce.com’s Chatter,” says Lee. “The problem is, if companies use those applications as their approach to adopting social software, they will end up having a social network for their sales team and their app, another for their finance team and their app, and another for their product team, and so on. All of these applications will be walled off from one another, and a company won’t realize very much cross-functional collaboration that transforms the business. Socialtext is instead a layer that spans the enterprise.”
Socialtext aims to unearth and share the valuable information that often lies buried inside static intranets—inventory levels falling low or customer complaints bubbling up overnight.
“Two years ago I would have spent a lot of money and resources to implement social technologies within our organization,” says Chakkarapani. But now, he says, enterprise- and budget-friendly tools are within reach.