Salesforce Communities renamed Salesforce1 Community Cloud

Salesforce has updated and rebranded its Communities product, now known as Salesforce1 Community Cloud. This extends the functionality of communities, and sharpens the competition with other enterprise social network vendors, like IBM, Jive, Microsoft, and SAP.

However, in its positioning, Salesforce compares the customer and partner communities with Linkedin. I recall that Yammer launched as ‘Twitter for business’. There is an echo here of that: a Linkedin for your business.

Community Cloud is geared towards three sorts of communities:

  1. customer community — marketing and support use cases
  2. partner community — partner and channel management
  3. employee community — social intranets, including mobile clients.

And in all communities, there are a broad spectrum of capabilities, such as business process integration, knowledge base creation, ideation, and Chatter-based collaboration. Commenting on the modular nature of the implementation, Cathy Benko, vice chairman and managing principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP, said

The Community Cloud represents an important moment in the industry, ushering in new lattice-like business models for how people work, how they engage their customers, and how they connect.

I think the lattice metaphor is helpful, and may in fact be the best way to characterize the intersections and overlaps in the three kinds of communities. I recently interviewed Celine Schillinger, and she left me with a cogent line: Social is the new normal. The Salesforce1 Community Cloud is the proof of that saying, simply by focusing on connection, mobility, and ease-of-use –and  without stressing the ‘S’ word — they are rolling out a highly competitive work management platform: one that aspires to become the best of breed enterprise social networking platform.

Some examples of how companies are using the product:

  • Home Depot created a community for customers working on home improvement, but also enabled a employee community linking its 2,200 stores.
  • Deloitte Digital, the digital agency within Deloitte, is lining up 4,000 consultants and teaming with Salesforce to help companies apply Salesforce1 Community Cloud in their businesses.
  • Other companies using the product include British Sky Broadcasting, Cornell University, GE Capital, Honeywell, Key Bank, Pearson, Pono Music, State of Colorado, Tata Communications and Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

Salesforce is obviously differentiating itself based on the close integration with Salesforce CRM offerings, and the ecosystem of apps integrated with that infrastructure.

 

Next generation work tech has to build on the work graph, not just social networks

Mark Zuckerberg is responsible for popularizing the term ‘social graph’ at the Facebook F8 conference on May 27 2007, as a way of explaining the Facebook Platform’s value proposition: offering up the social relationship data of between Facebook users, and to other social objects (like photos and posts), so that other app developers could simply use it and not have to regenerate it.

The earlier use of the term may have originated with Philippe Bouzaglou who used the term in a paper that applied graph theory to explore the characteristics of the social network it modeled. Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder of Facebook and now a co-founder of Asana, attended that class with Bouzaglou. People might have gravitated to it also as a helpful disambiguation from the ‘social networks’ like Twitter and Facebook: the category of apps. It comes as no surprise then that people at Asana are using the term social graph, and now have proposed the term work graph in distinction from the more general social graph.

I didn’t initially see that the term social graph offered much over the historical use of the term social network, but now my view has shifted, and for one reason. I always considered the principles of social networks as being derived from graph theory in the first place, but the social graph idea has added to the mix the idea of social objects: the photos, messages, likes, and other signals and information that are shared across social networks. So a simplistic but helpful way to think about it is this:

social graph = social network (people) + social objects (things)

Returning to the notion of work graph, Justin Rosenstein, Dustin’s co-founder at Asana has written a deeply insightful lament about the state of work, and one that echoes a lot of my groaning about the state of work tech tools and our reliance on email:

Justin Rosenstein, The Way We Work Is Soul-Sucking, But Social Networks Are Not the Fix

Surely someday people will look back on us with the same awe, wonder, and sympathy that we look back on previous times: Did they really spend all frickin’ day sitting in front of Gmail and Outlook?

[…]

Meanwhile, the concept of enterprise social networks — and that what works on Facebook will work for businesses — has certainly been appealing. (Not to mention that it creates an enviably straightforward product design roadmap for companies like Microsoft’s Yammer and Salesforce’s Chatter teams: just clone Twitter’s and Facebook’s features, one by one). Such networks do have some advantages over email.

But they are small, incremental improvements. It’s an indication of just how bad the status quo is that even small Band-Aids can represent a billion dollars’ worth of value.

So you might wonder what does he think the answer is? He suggests that we look at the work graph — the network of people (the nodes on the graph) and metadata about them, their relationships (the arcs on the graph), and the ‘units of work’, which are information elements (tasks, ideas, clients, goals, milestones, and so on). And then there are additional schemas — although he doesn’t use that term — that define ways that these work graph elements tie together. And then we must build tools that manipulate objects through work schemas on behalf of people in the work graph: not just passing messages from person to person in the social network.

Rosenstein states that enterprise social networks don’t meet what he thinks is the chief requirement of work tech: Having all the information we need when we need it. I disagree. That has been the value proposition pushed for decades by enterprise software types: the right information to the right people at the right time. But I think he is still correct when he says that today’s work tech doesn’t effectively fit with today’s work graph. But that’s because the now dominant tools are structured around old notions of collaborative control, rather than new notions of cooperative autonomy, and failed to push into emergent value based on strategic learning.

Here’s what he said, though. He gets awfully close to my point above:

The upshot of the latter data structure is having all the information we need when we need it. Where the enterprise social graph requires blasting a whole team with messages like “Hey, has anyone started working on this yet?”, we can just query the work graph and efficiently find out exactly who’s working on that task and how much progress they’ve made. Where the enterprise social graph model depends on serendipity, the work graph model routes information with purpose: towards driving projects to conclusions.

Imagine having more clarity, sanity, confidence, time, and autonomy. Not drowning in email or worrying about whether the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. Not having to sit in status meetings or through annoying boss interruptions to find out what’s going on. Instead of worrying about delays or missing deadlines, we can focus on achieving goals and working together effortlessly.

At the heart of this is rethinking how we design our tools. We’ve been able to get by until now on a patchwork of solutions and incremental improvements, but that’s just addressing a need. Attaining our future desires, however, will be about tools that are designed from the ground up for helping people work together.

I totally agree. As I wrote last October

The coming cooperative organization is scary, because it places ambiguity and uncertainty at the center of organization dynamics. It is based on not knowing exactly what to do, in a world increasingly difficult to read. It values experimentation over execution, places agility above process, and puts learning ahead of knowing. It asks more questions than it can answer, and it may not even know how to answer them.

And we certainly don’t have the tools to do that, yet. Visionaries like Dustin and Justin are likely to be the folks cooking up new approaches though, not the large established vendors of last century collaboration tools.

LinkedIn may be entering the work management market

LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner, in an interview at TechCrunch last week, expanded on his ideas about the “professional graph” — the network linking you to professional colleagues, and colleagues of colleagues — and growing that over the next ten years into an “economic graph” which would connect every worker, every  job, and profiles of every company, organization, and university. And then, he said “LinkedIn would get out of the way” and let them do obvious things.

Some of the vision he is spinning seems to parallel the idea of open work that I’ve written about: the premise that any company, of whatever size, would be able to use online services to connect and communicate with others. With customers and clients, yes, but more broadly with all sorts of agents in its marketplace. With potential employees or freelancers, with existing or possible service firms, and with other organizations. Given the right sorts of services built into an open work platform, a participating company would be able to lower the friction involved in hiring, outsourcing and insourcing, distributing manufacturing, and a wide spectrum of other activities. This is perhaps the largest recapitulation of the placeform concept (marketplace + platform = placeform) I’ve been writing about this year (see Let a thousand placeforms connect us, even as we loosen our connections). LinkedIn is uniquely positioned to bring this vision forward.

However, the initial steps for LinkedIn might involve a push into an established and growing market, enterprise social networks, which I call work media. They come at this from a different angle, since LinkedIn is an open professional network, with over 3 million active company profiles, and hundreds of millions of user profiles. Contrast this with products like Yammer and Chatter, which support basically no open public profiles, but are in user at thousands of companies in a closed fashion (by closed in this case I mean there is no open access as there is in Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn). So LinkedIn would be backing into the enterprise with an extension to the open services that companies and individuals already use.

Weiner mentioned that LinkedIn is already using an in-house version of LinkedIn that allows his company to be more productive:

[…] at LinkedIn we’re building tools that will enable us to get more value from our own platform. And success, to the extent that we generate the right kind of engagement and the right kind of productivity enhancement, we would then be in the position by virtue of the platform to think about productizing that.

[note: the Techcrunch videos are bit screwy. To see this interview proceed here, find the Jeff Weiner backstage interview and click on “related.” The Jeff Weiner onstage interview mistakenly links to a Dick Costello talk.]

He was asked by Eric Elden of TechCrunch specifically about Yammer and Chatter, and he responded this way:

We’d want it to be specific and unique to what we offer today. I think you would see greater emphasis on professional identity, for example. But again, there’s no definitive plans to offer that as a product. What we’re trying to do is leverage LinkedIn and as employees get as much value from that.

I could imagine a scenario where LinkedIn might develop the in-house equivalent of today’s collaboration-oriented work media solutions — a la Yammer and Chatter — or leapfrog into a more cooperative alternative, based on their orientation to the open professional graph. This would include capabilities for companies to not only search for employees and on ramp them into jobs, but also the workforce management services that placeforms like oDesk, and cooperative tools that connect and coordinate our work activities, and provide a social communication layer.

If LinkedIn takes this step it could be as transformative to today’s enterprise software market as Amazon’s forays into books and cloud computing.

 

Today in Social

In a clash of enterprise social collaboration, Salesforce has the bigger announcement, but product doesn’t ship till the second half of 2013. Salesforce says it will be getting into the hosted community business, enabling companies to create private social networks to collaborate with remote employees, customers, and their supply chain. Companies like Jive and Telligent are well ahead of the big guy on that front, even if Saleforce says Chatter has 150,000 paying users. Yammer gets a fairly minor upgrade, with new email integration features and connections to HootSuite and a variety of other services. Salesforce also announced that its Buddy Media acquisition closed. Though that’s a social media marketing play, it has nothing much to do with these other work media or enterprise collaboration tools.

Potential Microsoft-Yammer impact

If Microsoft buys Yammer, it should focus on keeping Yammer a horizontal platform and learn how to adapt to freemium pricing rather than obsess over deeply integrating Yammer across its product lines. If it does, this could be a powerful combination in work media.

Today in Social

Based on a single, unnamed source, the Wall Street Journal says Microsoft is about to buy Yammer for $1.2 billion. Microsoft’s SharePoint enterprise collaboration software is notoriously difficult to deploy. The much lighter-featured Yammer – with its social UI and freemium business model, and with some integration to SharePoint, SAP, Salesforce and others –  is the opposite. GigaOM Pro analyst Thomas Vander Wal notes that SharePoint implementers have discovered that SharePoint’s own social components have “too many dead ends,” but that Yammer’s conversion rate to paid customers might be too low for an IPO. And it might indicate that, while Yammer can demonstrate social utility to customers, its premium features aren’t worth it. Still, Thomas isn’t sold on the potential combo as a perfect match, and SharePoint ecosystem players (NewsGator, Telligent) might feel the resulting competitive threat more than the big social CRM wannabes.