Managers Jump Up and Down for Social Networking

It's always important to know who's who in business. But what might be more crucial to keep tabs on is "who's talking to whom" -- that's what the social computing software developers at Trampoline Systems say they're keeping an eye on. The company's new Sonar Flightdeck tool -- the newest component to its Sonar suite of services -- is intended to drive organizational intelligence and diagnostics, shifting managers' focus onto network relationships for what the company calls "high-risk, low-data decisions." For five years, the London-based social enterprise software provider has focused on the power and benefits of peer-to-peer networking. The Sonar suite -- which also includes Sonar Dashboard -- helps users find the right people and resources through an interface reminiscent of Facebook. Trampoline markets this platform as specifically advantageous for business managers. "It became clear that there was a completely separate set of special needs that managers hold," says Charles Armstrong, Trampoline's chief executive officer. "If you are a senior-level executive and want data on which customer relationships are going well, or if you want to monitor a merger, then you have almost no tools to help you do this. That's where the original vision came from." The Flightdeck program may seem bewildering at first glance, but makes sense within a few clicks. What begins looking like a giant furball of dots represents a map of employees within an enterprise. The map can be expanded, collapsed, or sorted, to show the connections between staff members, who are represented by individual dots. What is hard to put into words is easily visible: A solid line to another dot represents a connection to another employee; the more lines connected to a dot, the more contacts that particular person has. Employees can identify key, connected players in organizations. In addition, they can easily find the right contact for a particular answer, rather than going through a chain of people. "Visualization is the only way to go," Armstrong says. "You don't see the picture in a spreadsheet. If you visualize it in the right way, the key intelligence comes out very clearly." As of now, Flightdeck is focused on intra-enterprise mapping. Armstrong says the software is ideal for large, multinational businesses that struggle to get an accurate sense of productivity. In the near future, Armstrong says, Trampoline aims to extend Flightdeck out to CRM systems. Managers will not only be able to see how contacted an employee is within a firm -- but also the level of connection with clients, partners, collaborators, and even customers. Before tackling customer networking, Armstrong says, Trampoline is thoroughly looking into issues regarding privacy and security. The final version of Flightdeck will be released in May. Andy Gibson, founder and director of www.sociability.org.uk, thinks that Flightdeck could bring a lot of value to CRM. He estimates that in five years nearly all CRM vendors will be incorporating aspects of Flightdeck's approach. "The classic CRM model looks at an organization from the top down," Gibson says. "The network approach connects network-to-network and brings customers into a community." According to Gibson, an application such as Flightdeck also empowers employees by bringing visibility to their connections and relationships. When connectivity and productivity are visible, he says, more value is revealed. "The big market for this will be in CRM with network maps," Gibson says. "I can see a lot of big CRM marketers will look at what Trampoline has done and see that we can give our customers a lot more visibility and control and make better decisions."

Related articles: Everything Is Social The word is everywhere now: social networks, social frameworks, social platforms. Social Networking Continues to Permeate Customer Service Solutions The expanded partnership between eVergance and Jive Software underscores a growing need to provide tools enabling online consumer forums. CRM Strategy and Methodologies for the 21st Century With the advent of Web 2.0 and other technologies, the CRM landscape may look vastly different in the not-so-distant future. Or will it? Tech Solution: Social Networking Tools Business Problem: Inability to generate qualified contacts and leads within customer companies. Salesforce.com Connects Me to You The on-demand vendor celebrates a new social networking feature -- and its millionth subscriber.
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