For the past few days, we attended SAS and SugarCRM user conferences in Seattle and San Francisco. These are just a few of the observations that comes from conversations with developers, business managers, product managers, entrepreneurs and executive management.
At both companies, you see the influence of social technologies in the discussions and what their partners are offering.
With this social wave comes a variety of new methods to crack the biggest nut: "The most effective way to organize, discover and share information." We've been pounding on that last issue for the past week. We have numerous examples for how web applications can be aggregated into environments like SugarCRM but its the complexity of organizing that data which becomes the biggest challenge.
The consumer social networks give people lots of ways to use applications. For example, Twitter is a hub for delivering messages to external sites from the application or services such as Tweetdeck and Seesmic. It is a bridge for external services that provide data services that aggregate Twitter data to be uses for specific uses. Recommendation services like Mr. Tweet provide a person with references to other people the individual may want to follow.
The enterprise is a different beast. It is not the most popular for the hungry young entrepreneurs and developers we met at companies like Twillio Tuesday night on the eve of Chirp, the Twitter developer conference taking place this week in San Francisco. Still, in conversations there, we met a few people who are developing for the enterprise environment. What they bring is a fresh look at how the social technologies apply in a world where compliance issues abound, complex processes rule the day and knowledge often exists in ERP silos and email archives.
What these young people see are front-end tools like Google Wave that serve as the foundation for collaborative services. These are platforms, for instance, that seek to eliminate email from the process.
These young developers create a certain effect. They've developed ways to organize and share information that the enterprise accepts. So much so that the giants have developed their own services, again, in many respects, inspired by the developers building web oriented platforms.
And it is having a transformative effect. On Sunday night, we sat in a conference hall at the Washington Convention Center. It was the 35th anniversary of the SAS Users Conference. It was our first time attending. Twitter was the focal part of the opening. Large screens showed the Twitter updates. Their vice president of marketing used his time on stage to push out his second tweet...ever. The singing group even tried to collaborate with the crowd to create an improvised song from their Twitter stream.
We learned the next day that this was a first for SAS. Twitter and the variety of other social technologies in the market are giving this conservative, data analytics company a new view, best illustrated in the launch this week of its Social Media Analytics platform. It's a complete, powerful service that takes structured and unstructured data from social networks, applies it to preset rules and delver the results in a dashboard environment. It's lacking a certain level of automation. It's not self-service by any means. It requires SAS to do the analysis and then present it through a web site.
But that's okay. The service acts as a pivot that gives SAS the capability to move into new markets. It moves them from the back of the deal to the front of the deal. In the back of the deal, for instance, SAS helps analyze customer guarantees. They do a lot more than that but it's an example of the textual analysis the company provides. Now they have greater access to the front side of the deal to. They can use the platform to reach into agencies where they can help customers craft brand strategies.
That should have an effect all of its own. It gives SAS the opportunity to interact with marketers, designers and UI specialists. They may recruit a few people or take the knowledge inside the company and turn it into something.
That should help SAS improve the Social Media Analytics platform, making it a service that is more easily available for users to do more on their own.
At SugarCon, the story is also a social one. Perhaps best summed up in the second day keynote by Paul Greenberg:
"Do You Really Have To Worry About the Social Customer?"
I am not so sure you have to worry about a social customer. But it might be a good idea to get know them a little bit better so you can build on your own transformations, whatever they may be.