an enterprise "timeline"

In my last article I asked you to consider the idea that a tool like Facebook's timeline could be a godsend for the knowledge worker. I ended with the sage thoughts of my wife: "Nobody is going to want their boss looking at their every move."

where this idea falls down

As with any good idea, things can go south real fast as soon as someone decides your "great tool" is an even better "performance metric." Since the main beneficiary of this idea would be employees who would be able to improve their productivity, any organization that does not already have a number on productivity will need more monetary justifications before buying this collaboration software. This would entice any vendor to show the heralded "reporting" function.

Reporting is obviously valuable; not only would it help in understanding actual use of said application but it would also be invaluable as an administrative tool when looking to upgrade or redesign.

  • it’s the feature that says "now you will finally understand what the heck employees are spending their time on all day"
  • it helps the vendor convince mid-level managers that they will have more information to give to their upper level managers
  • it helps IT justify huge budget requests to the CIO
  • it is key to many a Contact Center staffing decision

But what would reporting do in this case? Here we would have a tool to help Joe-knowledge worker keep himself on track. It could let Alice the lawyer accurately bill her time (and with an app-on app, do so automatically just like a legal assistant would). This timeline function would be a great tool, if only the employee didn't feel like they were doing their job from inside the boss's office.

There will be a massive push to have all timelines visible to managers. Just like all your calendar items used to be (and in many cases, still are) visible to anyone above you. It has taken years for companies to set calendar entries as private and to give that visibility "control" to the individual. If something like a timeline is deployed in the enterprise, it will be a two-to-one bet that the timelines will be seen as company property and this will stifle employee use and adoption mostly due to big-brother styled fear.

(despite this) who could really bring it together

CIOs and IT directors will be looking for the company selling the silver bullet. Something that gives them all the features they want out of one box. At the moment, no such vendor exists. The communication vendors such as Avaya and Cisco are still developing their social platforms while the social vendors such as Jive and to a certain extent, Microsoft, are working on full communications integrations. When you read the feature lists and gaps there is no mention of any "timeline" feature (feel free to correct me if I missed it. ). In my estimation, you need at a minimum the ability to track work across the following systems to make a timeline viable:

  • email
  • voice and voicemail
  • instant messaging
  • document manipulation (MS Office)
  • social inputs (blogging, posting, commenting, sharing)
  • Knowledge Management repositories, e.g., wikis and SharePoint

Once you have those core IT systems reporting into your social application, you have the ability to create Software Developer Kits (SDKs) for adding other important systems like SAP, Oracle, and Salesforce.

So at the moment, this a three-horse race. Cisco and Microsoft own the main inputs of voice email and IM. Microsoft has had to give many vendors the ability to hook into MS Office, so for now I see that as a wash. To a certain degree I would even give Microsoft the edge with their deployment base of SharePoint, but their acquisition of Yammer puts that entire market back into play for other vendors.

On the Web Collaboration front, Cisco's WebEx dominates in much the same way SharePoint does as an internal collaboration tool. If either added a timeline-like feature to their enterprise social products, I think it would be highly utilized … as long as management doesn’t find out. But the wildcard is Jive. They already have the app-store-styled integrations, and they are the current leader in social platforms that put user tasks at the forefront. They only lack the tie-ins to the classic voice tools.

what’s next

The main advantage that these two giants have over their smaller enterprise social brethren, wasn't even created by them. I'll discuss this more in my next post (kudos for reading this far) but suffice to say it is platform interoperability.


image © raywoo -

Joshua Sillers
Joshua Sillers

Joshua Sillers has been with Orange for the past 12 years working to enhance the customer experience. He is currently serving as a Collaboration Sales Expert with an emphasis on Team collaboration tools, API interactions, Orange OpenLabs and User Adoption Services. Joshua holds a B.A. degree in International Relations and Spanish from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN and a Masters of Science in Technology Management from the University of Minnesota.