Home SoftBank Takes on Salesforce.com in Asia with Something Chatter Does Not Do

SoftBank Takes on Salesforce.com in Asia with Something Chatter Does Not Do

In December, BroadVision executives met with colleagues from SoftBank, the massive Japanese telecommunications company. What they came away with was a micro activity stream that does what Salesforce.com Chatter does not do. And that’s serve as more of a Twitter-like experience for communicating in and outside the firewall.

Moving data transparently two ways on each side of the firewall is a missing capability that we see in enterprise services. It ignores the increasing flat work environment that come with today’s business requirements. You need flat work environments and you need flat networks. Period. Flat work environments are better for transparent conversations and flat networks manage pooled data infrastructures.

At the meeting, the talk turned to Chatter and its entrance into the Asia market. The concern was expressed that if SoftBank did not act fact fast, they would not be prepared as the Salesforce.com marketing machine moved into the market.

Clearvale Expressis the invention of that meeting. It’s a free social media application, much like Chatter.com that Softbank will distribute to its customers.

BroadVision’s Clearvale service had already found a powerful partner in Softbank. The telecommunications company had adopted theClearvale Enterprise offering, a Platform-as-a-Service for collaboration.

Softbank will now market Clearvale Express and upsell Clearvale Enterprise. It can then offer a unfied set of sevices, including instant mesaging, email and voice technologies.

Offering a PaaS is a new realm for Broadvision. The publicly traded company had earned a certain fame during the dot-com era for its portal technology. But in recent years it has moved its focus to the new generation of enterprise services that have surfaced as the pressing need has emerged to manage data in all its forms.

Spearheading Broadvision’s strategic direction is founder and CEO Dr. Pehong Chen. We spoke with Chen earlier this week about Clearvale Express and the intricacies of the Japanese and Asian markets.

He said In Japan there is a particular importance placed on maintaining and building trust. The Japanese work culture is far more flat than in the United States. The CEO has a different role, working more closely with the people in consensus building and decision making. There is an extended social life that is part of the job. You go out to dinner with your colleagues.

It is this part of the Japanese way that is embodied in the concept of “nemowashi,” Chen said. It translates to working around the complex roots of a tree.

“Asians are very collaborative,” Chen said. “In Japanese culture, the CEO has a lot less power than the typical Western CEO. They are rank and file.”

The nemowashi culture permeates through the supply chain, Chen said. The network consists of intricate, delicate relationships that are continually developed.

Activity streams are of interest for the communication capabilities that they provide, especially in connected environments where the nemowashi culture extends, Chen said.

But there is something more in Asia that is acting here and that’s the loss of influence exemplified by Apple’s cut into the Sony image. Sony once stood as the leader in consumer electronics. I will never forget the Sony Trinitron color television that my dad received for Christmas when I was about five years old. It was amazing with its buttons in primary colors of yellow, red, blue and green. That impression stayed in me for years. But Apple is now king. And it’s not lost on the Japanese, who see their dominance chipped at in the electronics space.

So interestingly, a two-way activity stream would seem to make sense in Asia as it works both in and outside the corporate walls. It’s conducive for planning, reaching out and sharing conversation. It can be used for internal projects and with people outside the company who may be partners or customers.

This is a different environment than we see in the United States where hierarchy has in many ways slowed the adoption of tools to manage data. The American corporate structure is tied to email, with its command and control architecture. Conversation is less conducive in this environment. The threat of losing control affects how executives adopt activity stream and new enterprise technologies.

At IBM last week, we heard a lot about the intricacies of developing internal systems for social business. That’s all fine and well. But you better understand the outside data world, too. Flat networks work in flat work cultures. Data flows faster than in hierarchical systems.

It’s that difference that will make the race in Asia one to watch.

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