In only a few short years, Twitter has gotten so big that I’ve actually created an account.
Now, many businesses are following in my footsteps and deciding to get on this microblogging bandwagon. The only problem is that Twitter doesn’t offer a private service for your business to use.
That means companies that are interested in rolling out microblogging technology will have to seek out Twitter-like tools. A few quick Google searches will find you applications with names like Jaiku, Obayoo, and Cyn.in (this industry sure loves using wacky names).
Another oddly named product, Present.ly, comes from Washington D.C.-based Intridea Inc., a tech firm specializing in social networking projects. I recently spoke with Yoshi Maisami, one of the co-founders of the company, about how organizations can effectively launch a microblogging service.
Maisami is very passionate about the industry and presented me with a laundry list of reasons for enterprise microblogging. Company-wide knowledge sharing can replace those boring Monday morning status meetings, hopefully make unproductive water cooler conversations irrelevant (because employees can get most of that out of the way virtually), bolster corporate morale, and contribute to an overall free-flow of ideas among staff, he said.
While many executives might still look at microblogging as a waste of time, Maisami argues the same things were said about office staples such as the telephone, fax machine and e-mail.
Present.ly offers employees the ability to tune into conversations based on predetermined keywords and take advantage of file attachment capabilities.
But what I was most impressed with was the price point, which Maisami said was a one-time fee of US$2,000 for small business (less than 1,000 employees) and US$20,000 for the major enterprises.
Here’s where things get interesting.
Both of these prices were for the on-premise Present.ly application, while the cloud model was free.
The Present.ly pricing model might not make sense to every IT manager out there, but it’s really a no-brainer and actually should be a lesson for every company even considering an investment in a microblogging app.
Software as a service might be great for some areas (antivirus software springs to mind), but if you’re really going to have employees exchanging messages about trade secrets and all sorts of intellectual property information, in-house is really the only serious option.
Just thinking about cloud-based applications keeps many business leaders up at night mainly because of the security concerns they’ll introduce.
As I’ve written before in blogs and other opinion pieces, any new technology is going to solve a few problems and create a few problems. Web-based apps that are hosted outside of your firewall will lead to new security issues every time.
If you don’t invest as much as you should on in-house security, taking an app to the Web might actually make your data safer. But if you’re a huge bank, an oil company, or any other major enterprise, chances are you will feel safer (and actually be safer) having your apps close to home.
In my view, IT leaders might simply underestimate the kind of information that can be shared over a microblogging tool. If you’re an insurance company and you’re staff are discussing claims issues, having that data leak out to a third-party would be disastrous.
Also, keep in mind, if your microblogging vendor is based outside of the country, a whole slew of regulatory issues will pop up.
A wise question to ask after settling on a vendor would be whether or not the on-premise product works with your existing IT infrastructure. This is really a crucial for any technology you bring in.
I’d even throw in smart phone functionality as a must-have. If your microblogging app can not only be easily accessed over the Web, but also on corporate BlackBerrys or iPhones, the more likely employees are going to adopt the system.
In addition to the on-premise option, what I really liked on paper about Present.ly (I’ve never actually used the tool, so I can’t gauge how well it works) is the one-time fee pricing.
Perhaps this is another option that you’re company should be looking at closely. The reason that Maisami gave me was that he wants his customers to actually get value from the product.
You can’t do that if you have 50,000 employees, but only have the budget to buy 5,000 licences. That’s when you get into the situation of rolling out the tool to a select bunch of employees.
The true value to this is to get everyone involved.
Often times in the social networking space, new tools burn out in popularity after a few months. The odds your enterprise microblogging tool gets used will only increase with the number of users available to actually use it.