Enterprise 2.0 and middleware-as-a-service

A friend of mine is currently considering taking a senior role at integration software vendor Tibco, a business I’m pretty familiar with from my Reuters days.  We were discussing their long term prospects as applications move increasingly to the cloud, which raised the question of how companies will integrate (or share data between) the offerings of the different cloud apps (or Software-as-a-service apps) that they use.

Three companies who have an answer to that question are Google, Salesforce and Yammer.  They have all developed a core application and then a platform which third party apps can plug into, much like Facebook has a core social networking offering and a platform which brings third party apps into the site and gives them access to the newsfeed and other communications features.

In the case of Yammer they have been going with an enterprise Twitter service for a couple of years now which has reached a very credible user base of 80,000 companies and one million end users, and then this week they have announced their platform offering.  Techcrunch used the following words to describe how the Yammer platform will work with third party apps:

Yammer is giving third-party developers the ability to sell and create applications like those that Yammer will now offer. For example, a Crocodoc app will allow you to highlight and comment on PDFs, Word documents, images and other files that are attached to Yammer messages. And new Zendesk app will allow users to attach a Zendesk customer service ticket to a Yammer message. The company says Box, Expensify and Lithium Yammer apps are currently in development.

As well as launching their platform Yammer have extended their core service from Twitter for the enterprise to Facebook to the enterprise, adding a newsfeed, an events app and other social networking features to their existing status update service.  I think this makes a lot of sense.  People benefit from the increased information flow that social networking brings as employees in the same way as they do at home, but they don’t want to share the same information with colleagues as they do with friends and it therefore makes sense to use different networks.  This is the promise of enterprise 2.0 about which I used to blog a lot a couple of years back, but which seems to have gone a bit quiet recently.

Google and Salesforce are, of course, a good deal larger and better resourced than Yammer and have had offerings in this space for a little while already.  Google has the Google Apps Marketplace which lets third party apps integrate with Google Docs and Salesforce has their Force.com platform.  So Yammer won’t have everything their own way, that said, this product area is very new and fast moving and it could well be that Yammer finds the sweet spot before its larger competitors.

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