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Why VMware Socialcast Will Be a Superstar

When I first heard that VMware was acquiring Socialcast, I quickly dismissed it and went on with my day. Still, it stayed in the back of my mind and it did not really hit me until I was preparing a presentation on the Consumerization of IT (CoIT) for a client. Then it hit me: How could I have missed that? And now, it makes perfect sense to me what VMware is doing.

The problem is, no matter how much you want to evolve, the knee-jerk reaction is always a technical one until you take a step back and see the larger picture. With that in mind, think about this: Global companies spend millions of dollars every year on collaboration and team-building activities. Their belief is that if employees knew one another, and understood what each did, that would automatically lead to increased productivity as a consequence. Knowing who your colleagues are and being able to contact them directly without having to go through the process of introductions and the awkward moments and the he/she-look-unapproachable kind of scenario, all such wasted time and expense for the business--if we could avoid that through team-building activities, could we improve and increase productivity? This approach is valid and companies that encourage these activities are usually among the best companies to work for and seem to always be among the most successful ones.

Facebook took the whole social experience to the next level, breaking barriers and building a billion dollar company before they even started selling anything. People by nature like to socialize and Facebook made it easy to break many of those barriers on a global scale. So, what if companies could take the Facebook idea into an organization? It'd be brilliant. But in doing so, would companies have to stop holding company team-building events? Absolutely not--those activities are still important, but something like Socialcast gives you some sort of mechanism for following through those team-building events. Rather than having those events happen in isolation and only effective at that moment, the team-building process can continue over time and as an ongoing process.

Socialcast isn't meant to out-social Facebook, but it does take a direct, full swing at Microsoft's SharePoint. SharePoint is IT's approach at team-building and collaboration, while Socialcast is a consumer approach at team-building and collaboration. Think about this way: People love Facebook, so let them use it internally as a business tool. After all, that is the essence of embracing CoIT rather than fighting it, right? I frequently send e-mails to colleagues about an interesting article, which then means replies and counter-replies will end up cluttering e-mail. (I've been on a thread that had over 100 e-mails on what laptop brand the company should adopt; then the VP stepped and said, "DUDE, you're getting a Dell!")

The point is, e-mail today is used to communicate, to store files, to do everything, but when you try to find anything with e-mail, it takes time and with e-mail you forget things, and so on. What if we decomposed how e-mail and file sharing and storing is addressed? Socialcast is like the new SharePoint, except now I want to use it because it is fun and easy to use.

I can see Socialcast as a way of significantly improving employee collaboration while embracing the immense success in social networking. What's more is that Socialcast is a SaaS product: no huge CapEx investments in hardware, in clustering, in SQL databases or index engines. Just configure it and use it. Now that being said, Socialcast is missing some enterprise features like ability to webify files and directories that reside on your internal network or connect to cloud storage, but those features should be relatively easy to implement and may in fact be part of the product at some point.

I welcome your comments and thoughts, but please note that before you respond, I fully understand that SharePoint offers more to the enterprise today, I understand its full-featured potential. So, my question to you is, do you think Socialcast can grow to replace SharePoint and do you think SharePoint desperately needs a social networking look and feel that would make it a bit more interactive and a lot more consumer-friendly?

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 06/07/2011 at 12:49 PM


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