Mar 5, 2012

SuccessFactors Jam for Social Enterprise


My colleague Prashanth Padmanabhan has been blogging about SuccessFactors Jam (former CubeTree) collaboration tool. In the spirit of ‘eating your own dogfood’, I started using the tool and here are some initial personal observations as an employee user.

Jam is free to sign up for at cubetree.com.  With your work email address, you are instantly in the internal company group – similar to Yammer. After playing around for some time - joining groups and creating groups, I felt this was the best enterprise collaboration tool I’ve used that solves many problems of earlier products. It’s extremely easy to share content (link, email, Twitter, blogs, discussions etc) and also build content through video.

 Social enterprise is often presented as an all-or-nothing word with all tools claiming to be everything for everyone, but the features of a tool need to be understood in the context of the specific problem you are trying to solve. In an earlier post, I talked about the behavioral differences between social in enterprise and consumer worlds, but I think there are three distinct classes of business problems that social tools can best solve in an enterprise: project-collaboration, ad hoc functional collaboration, and broad Q&A platform.

 Project-collaboration: is when a few (~<10) colleagues (whether same team or cross-functional) work together for ~2-6 months to complete a project. Everyone is motivated by the same project goals and if a tool is easy to use and helps them be more productive, reducing email clutter, it’ll be quickly adopted. In a small working group of peers, network effects and information overload are not major concerns.

Since the deliverable of most knowledge worker projects is a document (often Microsoft Office) – e.g., sales contract, decision presentation, white paper, RFP/ response, budget spreadsheet - document collaboration is critical for projects. Jam really shines here due to the unique document collaboration support in groups/ projects (private or company-public). Everyone can put comments in documents at the right place, instead of long email threads. The strong version management feature helps you discuss and converge quickly.

Ad hoc/ ongoing functional collaboration: happens when many people (100+) in one or more related functions (e.g., engineering, sales, finance) collaborate in that business context to get a specific task done as-needed, without confined to a well-defined project. Example - a new hire needs help with filing expenses or a sales person wants to understand the revenue recognition implications of a deal. This is a harder network problem than projects, as there’s value only if there are a minimum number of valuable participants. Moreover, many discussions might not be relevant, risking low-value information overload. To succeed, there should still be enough motivation/ self-interest for people to come back to the site – whether to contribute or listen/ ‘lurk’.

Coming from SuccessFactors, Jam has a strong focus on making collaboration in HCM talent management context extremely easy by integration with performance management, learning, recruiting, and onboarding processes. General purpose collaboration tools fail to establish a compelling ‘beachhead’ use case, but Jam has a strong advantage here.

Q&A platform across functions or the entire company: Examples are developer communities asking for architecture advice or sales searching for an expert product person for a demo.  SAP Community Network (SDN) has built such a great public platform. However, this is a hard problem for an internal social tool, due to the network building challenge and the ‘noise’/ irrelevant content, as the group size expands (1000’s in a large company). Safety becomes an issue as well. For example, if a customer service rep finds major problems in a product, or a sales person disagrees with the regional pricing strategy, asking for resolution openly becomes tricky. Moreover, contributors get limited short-term value, since intra-company reputation today has less direct career upside (unlike an external forum like SDN) and the motivation to come back and engage could diminish.

Hence, an additional useful feature could be a Google+ Circles-like filter to reduce the information overload. If I can segment incoming feeds or outgoing notifications by people - my team, org unit, topic-expert people etc -, I am much more likely to come back to monitor/ engage in those relevant sub-networks, beyond project-collaboration.

Enterprise collaboration is certainly different from consumer social networks. Finding the right tool and building an adoption strategy focused on the problem you are trying to solve is critical for mass adoption. SuccessFactors Jam gives the tools for you to identify the right social enterprise use case and solve with the right adoption strategy.

Detailed Jam overview (YouTube video)