Rich profiles : an overlooked market ?

When we talk about social media in the workplace, it means, it’s about lots of tools. Blogs, wikis, social networks, social boomarking, microblogging etc… As years go all these tools are improving, each adding the core functionalities of the others to such an extent than more and more products are now looking alike.

One of these tools has not been packaged as a product by itslef : the rich profile, enriched by people activies, by more official datas, professional or personal information that makes it easier to identify, find and know each person.

Profile is key to many approaches because its usefulness is obvious to anyone : easily find people one’s now but also identifying relevant people one don’t know but are relevant to solve a given problem. For many organizations it’s, and for good reasons, the entry point to social media, because it’s seems to ensure a quick adoption of a first light social layer that meet an actual need.

On the other hand, rich profiles makes no sense if not fed by relevant information and aggregating people’s activities, what supposes it’s interfaced with as many other applications as possible, should they be social or more traditionnal. What implies the applications in question already exist and are used.

So the rich profile is the perfect entry point to discover tools and usages provided other tools and usages pre-exists. Sounds like chicken and egg. Vendors know that and all social tools include their own profile that makes the most of the use of the tool. Obvious solution. But is it the perfect one ? In fact it can be questioned.

The fact is for any enterprise, profiles share one characteristics with employee directories they are often the visible part of : they’re worth only if unique and used by all. Things are actually different  : in most organizations many social platforms coexist, each having its own profile, relying on its own data, what makes people have as many profiles as applications they use, each of them being, of course uncomplete. Moreover, even when an organization has chosen an unique tools, it’s not always accessible to all empoyees.

So a situation where some employees have many profiles relying on different sources, some don’t have any, and not every employee can see all profiles is not uncommon at all. Not a comfortable situation.

Hence the questions : is there a room for a directory relying on rich profiles, distinct from any applications but able to rely on all the existing and future ones, avoiding data dispersion and multiple updates. Is something missing on the market ? Will organizations need to connect all these data by themselbes with lots of specific devs ? Will a vendor manage to make the profile of their solution a market standard because it will easily interface with any tools and even its competitors ?

D’où la question : n’y a-t-il pas une place pour un annuaire reposant sur des profils riches, distinct de toutes les applications mais pouvant tirer profit de toutes, existantes ou à venir, évitant la dispersion des données et les mises à jour redondantes ? Existe-t-il un trou dans l’offre du marché ? Les entreprises vont elles devoir assurer elles-mêmes la mise en cohérence de ce patchwork de données à grand renforts de développements spécifiques ? Ou alors un éditeur va-t-il réussil à faire du profil lié à son produit celui qui, en s’interfaçant avec mille et un autre outils deviendra le standard de facto

This is something I’ve been thiniking about for a long time and seems to make more and more sense.

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  • James Dellow

    This is actually one of the things I like about IBM’s Lotus Connections. They use ATOM as the basis for their API – it means you can push and pull to and from the user profile in Connections. A nice post here about the ability to bring that profile into non-social Web apps using the business card http://synch.rono.us/social/blog.nsf/dx/11042010114828PMJRU6ES.htm

  • http://mazeika.info Andrius Mazeika

    SharePoint 2010 seems to fit the bill. It allows for import from many different profile directories and can become the single most accurate directory. Moreover, it tracks user’s activity across the SharePoint deployment and displays it in a FB-like activity feed. At my previous employer, SP profile has become the most accurate repository about users as all other systems tend to be outdated. As a result, SP profiles were used to export to other systems in some cases.