A Suite Offering: Buy, Build and Borrow

Organizations also can perform analytics to determine the effectiveness of candidate placement and learning, and the extent to which experts are helping others within the social tool.

Saba Software has put such capabilities at the core of all of its products, according to Chris Tratar, the company’s senior director of product marketing. Tratar said the social feature incorporates an underlying learning platform that records users’ profiles, learning classes, groups they’ve joined and people with whom they’ve connected. Then the platform automatically recommends additional people, content and ideas to help users accomplish goals.

“For example, an employee may be in charge of customer service and needs to improve customer satisfaction by 15 percent,” Tratar said. “The employee can search for experts in customer service and then can start to collaborate with them to achieve their goal.”

An employee can form what Saba calls a “customer service excellence” group for members to share best practices via video conferencing. Users also receive badges and points for posting content.

Vendors come by their collaboration capabilities in a variety of ways. For instance, IBM Corp. picked up enhanced social capabilities last year when it acquired Kenexa, a recruitment process outsource provider, said Kevin Cavanaugh, IBM’s vice president of social business.

SilkRoad Technology built its social platform, “Point,” as a native part of its talent management products. The idea was to have like-minded workers connect via learning activities, performance reviews and other HR tasks, as well as to groups for information sharing, said Thomas Boyle, the Chicago-based company’s director of product marketing. “Even in group forums sometimes there is a little too much noise, but connecting with individuals can give them a more targeted stream of content.”

SAP’s Jam platform aims to make workers more effective in any business process, according to Sameer Patel, the company’s global vice president and general manager of the enterprise social software division. Patel said one social layer integrates across applications, with collaboration available wherever a person may need it during the work day. “The conversations they may have with others, either informally or in formal groups around apps, are all presented as one experience.”

Still, it’s not enough to focus solely on communication — collaboration technology platforms must also help employees solve problems or make decisions faster, said Holly Simmons, SAP’s division vice president of marketing. She said that’s why it’s necessary to have the technology where employees work, to bring together social networking capabilities with document sharing, video, problem-solving tools and task management to ensure work contributes to business outcomes.

Other vendors opt to use standalone services to inject collaboration into the workplace.

Yammer, an enterprise social network acquired in June 2012 by Microsoft Corp., aims to allow organizations to communicate and collaborate across all levels. Chad Slipka, a customer success manager at Yammer, said platform users can assign topics to conversations to make them easier to find and separate conversations within public or private groups. Users also can write private messages to one another and bring experts into conversations by using a function called “at-mentioning.”

The platform also can translate messages in other languages so employees in different countries can communicate and share critical information. A forthcoming feature will allow users to edit documents via Microsoft Office 365 Web applications, allowing users to participate in “collaborative editing of specific documents in real time, with people simultaneously having conversations about the changes,” Slipka said.

Podio, purchased last year by Citrix Systems Inc., is an online work platform where work projects are “pulled” into workspaces, said Tommy Ahlers, Podio’s former chief executive officer and now Citrix’s vice president of social collaboration. Users can incorporate Podio apps or applications from other computer systems to perform tasks and foster collaboration within workspaces. They also can send instant messages.

Practice Makes Perfect: Does It Work?