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Posts Tagged ‘socialnetworking’

Vertical e2.0: Travel Industry has an e2.0 platform of its own.

Posted by Susan Scrupski on February 23, 2008

cubeless logo

cubeless communityI interviewed John Samuel, head of Sabre Travel Studios at Sabre Holdings, and Denise Fernandez, the Studios’ head of Marketing this week.  The Travel Studios functions as an incubator within Sabre, experimenting and releasing innovative new products that don’t fit in neatly within other business units. The first product the group is bringing to market is cubeless, derived from an enterprise 2.0 social computing platform they have been using internally about a year at Sabre called, “Sabre Town.”

Custom-built from scratch on open source tools, Apache and Linux, the software is a Rails application, according to Samuel. Sabre is announcing cubeless as the “industry’s first enterprise 2.0 community platform for the travel industry.” The app was built by less than a half dozen developers and launched within a few months, although Samuel notes parts of the application were built prior to putting it all together for the launch.

Hosted behind the company’s firewall, cubeless enables community members to inquire, in a traditional Q&A format, about ordinary travel questions (hotels, restaurants, etc.) as well as a host of other community topics such as Sabre Town’s private group on Rails development or a lifestyle group on Yoga. The platform fulfills all of the SLATES criteria for a standard enterprise 2.0 platform and excels at sharing advice and recommendations.

Sabre is working with American Express Business Travel on the initial launch of cubeless, scheduled for mid-2008. The focus is on business travelers, offering cubeless as a new module from Sabre’s GetThere which is the world’s leading corporate booking solution and a long-time partner of American Express Business Travel. Examples of how it will be used are explained in a statement by Tom Klein, executive vice president for Sabre Holdings, “It can be anything from finding out about services to support [an employee’s] business trip in a location others have been to, to what nearby restaurants are opened all night for a quick bite to verifying that a hotel they want t stay in has dependable, fast wireless Internet access and a gym that is open early in the morning.” Samuel and Fernandez believe users will make heavy use of the software, acknowledging people tend to trust people in their own organization to provide such personal insight into their travel plans. Fernandez says with Sabre Town, the ratio of questions to answers is running nearly 9:1. They’ve found people are eager to share their experiences and help other travelers.

Through GetThere and its affiliates (agencies and corporate travel departments), cubeless will have access to hundreds of thousands of members. GetThere already serves over 3,000 businesses in 40 countries worldwide and more than half of America’s 100 highest spending business travel accounts. More than half of the F200 that have an online booking tool use GetThere including Cisco, Oracle, GE, EDS, and Wal-Mart. Sabre has already proven its prowess with online collaboration and community via its IgoUgo with its 350,000 members sharing travel experiences, advice, photos and tips and stories on a multitude of worldwide destinations.

What’s interesting about cubeless is it has an easy, low-risk threshold for engagement for community members with a healthy incentive: self-interest. Everyone who is introduced to the product will “get it.” The benefits to using the social platform are obvious and immediate. In addition, the software scores high on the “fun” factor that facilitates rapid adoption. Sabre reports that over 10,000 profiles have been submitted since the internal launch of cubeless. And in a single month, more than 900 referrals had been sent to others whose profiles indicated knowledge or expertise they could address.

Launching an enterprise 2.0 community platform to suit a vertical market’s needs is innovative and should inspire others to follow suit.

cubeless tags

Posted in Enterprise 2.0, Ruby on Rails, social networking | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Vertical e2.0: Travel Industry has an e2.0 platform of its own.

Microsoft hooks up at Web 2.0.

Posted by Susan Scrupski on October 22, 2007

I’m a little late on Microsoft’s Atlassian and Newsgator news from last week’s announcement coming out of the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Conference. Scrappy, but solid, little Atlassian (whom you know I just love*) was anointed this year’s wiki-mate (pun intended) for SharePoint 2007. (As opposed to last year’s which was Socialtext). I have to admit, I’m still not clear on how the Confluence wiki is preferable to the Socialtext wiki for SharePoint, but admittedly, I’m not an expert in wiki technology or SharePoint for that matter. I am a wiki user, however, of Socialtext. In the spirit of 2.0 transparency, Redmonk’s James Governor makes an attempt at clearing up the differences with Ross Mayfield chiming in on the comments.

If you need to know more about this, please read Dan Farber, Richard McManus, or see Scoble’s interview with Mike and Jeff for technical details on the announcement.

What interested Jevon and I as we IM-chatted about this last week was how serious was Microsoft about the relationships? Obviously, the company issued a press release, but is this any more than Microsoft showing up to this year’s Web 2.0 party with two “it” girls on its arm– Atlassian and Newsgator? Both startups are sexy and independent rising stars on their own. Yet, both firms could benefit from Microsoft’s large footprint in the enterprise, as well as the success SharePoint 2007 seems to be on track for (topping $800M this summer).

So the announcement is very good for both startups, but does it reveal anything about Microsoft’s plans for a long-term Enterprise 2.0 product road map? Another fellow Enterprise Irregular who has had confidential briefings at Microsoft told me that, “discussions are going on at the highest levels to address this.” Additionally, he pointed out that Steve Ballmer doesn’t make conference appearances willy nilly. “The fact that Ballmer was there demonstrates Microsoft is committed to a long-term strategy here, even if the short term strategy looks more like marketing.”

The bottom line for me is: regardless of who is selling and evangelizing behind the walled gardens and firewalls of EnterpriseGlobal, this particular announcement introduces rich enterprise 2.0 capabilities to a community that has been slow to respond to web 2.0 for the enterprise. That fact alone elicits a big “YaY!” from me.

It’s actually the NewsGator announcement that may give SharePoint customers a taste of “addicting” social networking features for large companies. After the demo NewsGator gave me last week, I pinned down Brian Kellner, Director of Product Management, on the five key benefits for SharePoint users. From a technical perspective they are:

  1. Discovery. With NewsGator Social Sites it’s easier to find people and content. It’s also easier to digest larger profiles of content that is interesting.
  2. Content IN. It’s easier to bring content into SharePoint in the form of press releases/blogs– all fresh content.
  3. Content OUT. It’s easier to send content back out in a single click with push notifications to several platforms and devices including mobile.
  4. Increased usability for SharePoint. NewsGator has added “Ajax-y goodness” so users can mark items as read, use pop-ups, etc., without page refresh.
  5. Lightens the Load for IT. As page loads draw off the enterprise server, it lightens the load off SharePoint.

But after talking to Jeff Nolan this weekend, he convinced me social networking was the killer feature for this announcement. Jeff said it’s the “seeing what your colleagues are posting and commenting on” similar to Plaxo’s Pulse that is going to add a nice dimension to SharePoint. Brian left this comment on a SharePoint customer’s blog that sums it up:

Social Sites does 4 things for SharePoint:
– Bring in content from many feeds, filtered and focused for a site with the ability to mark things read and tag items
– Easy, one-click subscription and routing of SharePoint changes – I have SharePoint blog posts going to a desktop notifier and document library changes going to my blackberry for example
– Better discovery and usability – Social Sites provides a quick scan page including a tag cloud (you can put the tag cloud web part on any / all of your team sites), a view of the top moving feeds, and most active users
– Easy discovery of expertise and interests. You can click on an author or tagger’s name to get a mini profile or view a full profile page and see tags, top subscriptions, saved items, and more for that user.

SocialSites Profile Page

In the past few posts, I’ve been complaining about the enterprise application vendors, but jeepers– SAP has truly been stepping up to the plate (I personally can’t wait to see if they commercialize Harmony), IBM clearly gets this, Microsoft is now dating and cooking up bigger plans, all we have left is Oracle. Oracle is hosting its OpenWorld Conference in a few weeks, which ironically, is not so open to bloggers. Via a Tweet from Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang earlier today at Oracle’s Lunch 2.0 event, we heard “Oracle is giving demos of their enterprise 2.0 apps. some are very promising but others need a major overhaul.” I look forward to reading the reports over the next few weeks regarding Oracle’s plans. So there you have it. The enterprise apps vendors are on the move.

Finally, I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning an alternative to SharePoint if you want great collaboration and social networking performance in the enterprise without the SharePoint experience. (Jeff and I also got into the “does SharePoint (um) suck or rock?” question. Suffice it to say there is evidence on both sides of that debate.) And of course, let’s not forget both Newsgator and Atlassian’s Confluence are available without SharePoint. That being said…

Check out ThoughtFarmer.

thoughtfarmer screen shot

I met these guys out at Office 2.0, but was tipped off to them again from Jevon. Chris McGrath, co-creator, told me ThoughtFarmer started out as a SharePoint project, but they ended up scrapping it and building their own. Granted, it was then SharePoint 2003, which even Jeff Nolan says, “definitely s**ed.”

Again, the good news here is there are strong reasons why enterprises can look seriously now at these web 2.0 technologies for the enterprise. The mission is now persuading them why they would want to. It sounds trivial, but for those outside of the “get-it” inner circle, it’s not. More posts to come on this topic. Stay tuned.

*I took a bit of a risk by backing Atlassian early on when they were relatively unknown. Now, I’m glad I did. Like in sports, good teams win on fundamentals, and these guys knew how to please customers and grow a business.

Posted in AJAX, Enterprise 2.0, RSS, social networking, Web 2.0, Wikis | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »