Google + : an enterprise tool ?

1
2027

Summary : Can Google Plus become a major player in the enterprise software field ? It will depend on its positioning and the efforts Google will make to understand a field where things have always been difficult for them. Google Plus is not a social networking platform but brings relevant answers to exchange and communication issues that are more related to email than social networks. Anyway, Google Plus, will not only have to fill some gaps to become a credible enterprise tool but will also need to learn how to integrate in the complex ecosystem of existing enterprise applications, most of all for usages they’ve never been good at. Google has the means of his ambition provided he proves he has de right culture

After a first post on my first steps with Google +, it’s time to deal with the question that’s already in many people’s minds : can Google + become an enterprise tool. Let’s be clear : I’m not talking about using this tool for brands but as an internal work tool for employees. In other words : will Google Plus be a game changer the day it will be a part of Google’s enterprise apps pack ?

As a matter of fact, many see Google + as the missing link of Google’s enterprise off which still lacks a collaboration/social/conversation part. Until now, Google has always been very good at search, online office tools (which is a first level of collaboration but limited to documents) but has never been successful when trying to go further. Google sites despite being useful and powerful only meet a small part of people’s need and the “Wave” experiment…was only an experiment. Too early, too improvable, too powerful but too ununderstood…Wave was “too” too many things and Google decided to kill it instead of improving it. But it’s sure that they learnt a lot from Wave when they started working on Google +

Hence the reflex of positioning Google plus as Google’s Trojan on the enterprise social software market, on the enterprise social network part. But Google plus has nothing of an enterprise social network platform. It’s not a social network in the strict meaning of the word because it does not allow to validate the link between two people in an explicit way. You’re in my circle(s), I’m in yours but it doesn’t mean anything more. This is way even Twitter founder’s once said that Twitter was not a social network…even if it’s easier to consider it as such. It’s not either an enterprise social network because it’s functionalities are too light. Of course, integration with Google apps can solve a part of the problem but not the whole problem. Groups and communities also lack for an enterprise use.

As I recently wrote, I’d rather see Google plus as a replacement for email. From this perspective it has all the required capabilities and circles are perfect for such usages. As paradoxical as it may seem, this tool has everything needed to kill email, much more than social networks as they exist on the market have. So, Google Plus, while note being an enterprise social network would be the best tool to keep this promise ? Not exactly.

I already wrote on what I’m thinking of the utopia of replacing email with social networks.The matter is more about the need for an informational hub gathering all the signals sent to a given person, whatever the source and the channel are, and making it easy to process the signal in a unique interface (which will also allow intelligent filtering depending on context). Since I have not seen any other persuasive thing in this matter, the best example of what I mean here is the famous IBM’s project Vulcan which is supposed to land on the market very shortly.

 

Such a tool will not replace existing collaboration and communication tools (except the mail client, but mail as a channel will stay) but will bring them together in a more coherent system. In short it deals with the real problem that is not about tools but about how we consume information (find, read, process, act upon…).

So, believe it or not, this is the opening where I see Google Plus as a possible major solution and not on the enterprise social network one. The stake is strategic and there are few credible pretenders at this time. This is a great opportunity. But…

Such a system need a deep integration with all the existing tools. APIs are a first step but organizations need something sounder, a genuine framework that will make the Herculean work of integration easy. This is essential if we don’t want businesses to fear the effort, step back, and fail at making the most out of the potential of the vision. That’s what we recently saw coming at IBM with the Social Business Framework and the Social Business Toolkit.

So, in the end, the question is all about knowing if Google is able to offer enough integration capabilities for Plus in en enterprise context. SSO, LDAP, tools of any kind… If yes, Google Plus may be  killer app. If not…

In fact, wondering if “google is able” is not the right word. Google has the means to do whatever it found strategic. The question is elsewhere. From a technical perspective, it’s about exploring new fields that have nothing to do with a marketplace as the one that exists for Google Apps. From a usage perspective, it’s a field where Google has always been very uncomfortable, what is a matter of culture. Last, it’s will be an heavy and long work, that may not be reasonable for a company that drives 95% of its revenues from advertising. Or, maybe, they want this percentage to change. What leads us back to the question of the culture that’s needed to build such a vision and execute it.

The success of Google Plus in large companies will highly depend on the compatibility of Google’s culture and corporate IT one as well as with the social business one. Knowing that culture is one of the few things you can’t buy, let me be sceptic. And, if I’m wrong, the battle with IBM Vulcan will be fascinating, even if IBM is very ahead today, and may lead to very good things for end users. So bad for those who did not pay attention to this trend before.