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BIG THINKER
“Social networking drives business transformation and company-wide cultural change.”
David Sacks, CEO of Yammer and corporate VP for Microsoft Office
The coming ‘socialization’ of enterprise apps
Image: Eric Millette
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The coming ‘socialization’ of enterprise apps

Kenny MacIver – January 2013
Yammer’s David Sacks argues that businesses should inject a social layer into all their core enterprise applications.

David Sacks is not shy of bold prognostication. There’s a far-reaching change about to happen in the way business gets done, predicts the CEO of enterprise social networking giant Yammer, the way people work, the way organizations function — and it’s a change many business leaders have yet to consider. For two decades, the core applications that underpin most enterprise operations — embodied in broad ERP packages of financial, manufacturing, HR, logistics and other key software — have aimed to maximize productivity and efficiency by integrating information and processes across the organization.

But one fundamental aspect has apparently been missing, and its absence, in the view of a growing number of analysts and visionary CXOs (Sacks included), is actually inhibiting further efficiency gains, slowing time to market for new products, thwarting innovation and stymieing agility. The shortcoming of business applications: they are not social.

Today’s applications lack a natural communications fabric that might enable people to (among other things) be constantly aware of each other’s activities, flag up their current project interests and available skills, “discover” experts and solutions to problems right across the enterprise, and, in acknowledgement, signal appreciation of other people’s work.

The upshot is that sales staff in one division of a company who are working on the delivery of a new campaign, for example, might be oblivious to the fact that colleagues elsewhere have already created just such a promotion. Or a logistics team might spend days emailing around the company trying to find a way to support the fulfilment of a sophisticated order in a remote region of the world, when colleagues with all the information they need may never get to hear of their challenge.

“When CEOs realize how social networking can help them achieve their business objectives, they get pretty excited.”

David Sacks, now with the financial muscle of Microsoft behind him since Yammer was snapped up by Microsoft in July 2012 for $1.2 billion, wants to change all that. Over the past four years, Yammer has pursued the goal of bringing social networking inside the enterprise, evangelizing it as an effective business tool. But sensing that the role of social in the enterprise is much more fundamental, Yammer’s mission has now been redefined: “To make all business applications social.”

Yammer is, of course, not alone in wanting to bring Facebook and Twitter-like capabilities to the enterprise and its core applications. Salesforce.com, with its Chatter software, has grafted a social context onto its sales, service and other apps, and made that capability available for other developers within its ecosystem. At the same time, the major software powerhouses, such as SAP and Oracle, have been talking up the potential for similar social layers in their application suites. But with a social enterprise platform that stands out as open and independent from underlying applications Yammer is making a strong play as the natural platform for weaving social into the fabric of business software.

Yammer’s confidence that it has a shot at that lofty goal is bolstered by the fact that enterprise social networking has already established formidable value in its early years. “When CEOs and CIOs realize how social networking can help them achieve their business objectives, they get pretty excited,” says Sacks. “These types of tools form a unique platform that can really drive business transformation and company-wide cultural change.”
First published
January 2013
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About: David Sacks
As the COO who took PayPal to IPO and sold it to eBay, David Sacks may now be hailed as a pioneer of corporate social networking, but to cinema fans he’s simply the guy who produced the cult movie ‘Thank You For Smoking.’

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