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Google Apps missing enterprise social-networking revolution

By Juan Carlos Perez
March 23, 2009 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - By now, many collaboration software providers consider it a must to have an enterprise social-networking component in their suites. But Google, which shook up this market with its Web-hosted Apps product in 2006, stands out for lacking this capability.

Many large and small collaboration vendors, including IBM, Microsoft, Socialtext, Box.net and Jive Software, have responded to demand from CIOs and IT managers for enterprise social-networking capabilities in collaboration suites.

As has happened before with wikis, blogs and syndication feeds, the popularity of social networking among consumers has propelled it to the workplace, where employees have found great collaboration and communication benefits in Facebook-like systems designed for use in companies.

In fact, some collaboration vendors are already on their second iteration of their enterprise social-networking technologies, giving them microblogging capabilities popularized among consumers by Twitter.

With so much activity in this space, Google seems to be trailing and slow on the uptake, as Apps remains a suite centered on e-mail communications and document sharing, devoid of social-networking capabilities.

This hasn't gone unnoticed by Apps administrators.

"In our domain, we'd definitely find that it'd be beneficial to have some type of interface into social networking," said Douglas Menefee, chief information officer at The Schumacher Group.

The health care company, which provides emergency medical staff and management services to hospitals, is testing the Apps Premier version of the suite with an eye toward buying licenses for about 2,500 physicians and nurses that it works with as independent contractors.

"As a company, we're continuing to look at how we can better utilize the concept of social networking as it relates to project management and updates, and have a little bit more transparency into each other's domains," he added.

Chris Abraham, president and chief operating officer of Abraham Harrison LLC, an online marketing and public relations firm, would also find it useful for Apps to offer social-networking capabilities.

The company has 16 employees, two of which work full time, two part time and the rest are contractors, he said. "We don't have a corporate Facebook. That would be good to have," Abraham said.

It would also be good for Apps as a product, since its contact-management and task-management features leave a lot to be desired, Abraham said.

Asked whether Google plans to add enterprise social networking to Apps, a Google spokesman said via e-mail that the company has no comment about the issue.

Traditionally, Google's enterprise products evolve out of its consumer services, so a ray of light for Apps administrators could be that the company isn't a social-networking neophyte.

Google has a consumer social-networking service called Orkut, which isn't as popular as Facebook or MySpace but has nonetheless a significant user base, especially outside of the U.S. The company also lets holders of Google accounts create personal profiles, where they can put information about themselves and consolidate access to Google services. A Google profile acts as a user's presentation badge on Google products to other users.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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