I want to begin today with a quick shout-out to my fellow bloggers at Data Center Knowledge. In a recent post, they identified me as one of the bloggers they follow for cloud and utility computing, and I'm honored to me included among such a strong list of bloggers.
(Rich Miller, who posted the list, is no slouch himself.) Update: I violated the cardinal rule of Internet social networking: assuming a given name applies to one person. Rich Miller from Data Center Knowledge is not the same Rich Miller that writes Telematique. My apologies to both.
One of those bloggers is Phil Wainwright, whose Software as Services blog is one of my regular reads. He is the most aggressive, forward thinker in the SaaS space, and he is very often sees opportunity that most of us miss. (Phil's blog is also a great way to stay on top of the companies and technologies that specifically support the SaaS market.)
Phil recently wrote an interesting post about SaaS and Web 2.0 concepts, titled "Enter the socialprise", in which he points out that the very nature of an "enterprise" is changing thanks to the Internet and cloud computing concepts. He notes that loyalty between individuals is replacing corporate loyalty, and that social networking on the Internet is creating a new work economy for individual knowledge workers.
He then goes on to challenge enterprise computing models:
But enterprise computing is still designed for the old, stovepipe model in which every transaction took place within the same firm. There’s no connection with the social automation that’s happening between individuals. Many enterprises even resist talking about social networking. And even when an application vendor adds some kind of social networking features, there’s always the suspicion that they’re just painting social lipstick on a stovepipe pig.The example he gives of a company leveraging this is InsideView, which is creating a very cool sales intelligence application that integrates with major SaaS CRM vendor products to aggregate information from a variety of online sources into a single prospect activity dashboard. This is an incredibly cool example of how rich data about individuals within and across firms can be used at an enterprise level.
This yawning chasm is an opportunity for a new class of applications to emerge that can harness the social networks between individuals and make them relevant to the enterprise. Or perhaps reinvent a new kind of enterprise, better suited to the low-friction reality of the connected Web. Enter the socialprise.
Another product that is similar that struck me was JobScience, which is one of the companies whose blog is in the Data Center Knowledge list referenced above. JobScience is using force.com to create a rich social intelligence engine for Salesforce.com customers. Their product, aptly called Genius, is an excellent example of what they are able to do. Read the post for all the features, but my favorite is:
The Genius Tracker. Not only does the tracker pop up to tell me an email recipient has just opened my email, or is visiting my web site, but the more important intelligence this gives me is that this prospect is is online and engaged with our solution. If a sales rep can call 40 people in a day, and a blast to 5000 prospects shows me that 40 of those prospects are online and engaged, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who to call. That rep’s going to have a much more productive day calling people who they know are in the office. Less voicemails, less brushoffs, less calls to people who don’t work there anymore.Bordering on privacy issues, I know, but an amazing level of detail, and invaluable if used wisely. More importantly, it goes to show what is possible in a stable, shared application environment.
By the way, this direct integration with a given CRM platform by a "value added extender" is an interesting twist to the dependency issues that Bob Warfield writes about on the SmoothSpan blog. JobScience's products are services that become a feature of the destination both visually as well as functionally. Bob's point about being a component provider to the actual product is well taken, and I wonder if the only exit strategy for these guys is acquisition by Salesforce. What else can they hope for as a company dependent on force.com? Talk about cloud lock-in.