Novell Pulse: Real-time Enterprise Collaboration?

February 15, 2010
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201002131535.jpg I had the opportunity to spend some time with the Novell Pulse team and take a deep look at their new social software solution. Announced during the e2.0 conference in San Francisco last Fall, Pulse is being positioned as a real-time enterprise collaboration platform. Novel, no stranger to the traditional collaboration space, just may have something unique and compelling in Pulse.

Many traditional collaboration tools have fallen far short of their promise and have not really enabled cross enterprise cooperation. I suppose that at some level they have facilitated specific functions, like team workspaces or document sharing but beyond that, not really. For many employees email ends up as the collaboration tool of choice and frankly, without going on another email rant, it is extremely inadequate. In many ways the underlying concepts of traditional collaboration tools don’t seem to hold up in the world of the social web


201002131535.jpg I had the opportunity to spend some time with the Novell Pulse team and take a deep look at their new social software solution. Announced during the e2.0 conference in San Francisco last Fall, Pulse is being positioned as a real-time enterprise collaboration platform. Novel, no stranger to the traditional collaboration space, just may have something unique and compelling in Pulse.

Many traditional collaboration tools have fallen far short of their promise and have not really enabled cross enterprise cooperation. I suppose that at some level they have facilitated specific functions, like team workspaces or document sharing but beyond that, not really. For many employees email ends up as the collaboration tool of choice and frankly, without going on another email rant, it is extremely inadequate. In many ways the underlying concepts of traditional collaboration tools don’t seem to hold up in the world of the social web. This goes back to the an idea I’ve held for some time, software that is designed to “manage” often does not encourage individuals and teams to “use” the managed “thing”. Content management systems, for example, do a great job of controlling document access and versions but I’d question whether the same system helps people use the content that it manages. Project management systems do a great job of tracking work, but do they really help individuals get work done on the project they track? A lot of enterprise software was built with management and/or IT in mind and not the rank and file.

Enter the social web and all of its ways of encouraging individuals to interact. The concepts of the social web have changed both how we interact and our expectations of interaction. It’s a common topic today to talk about the consumerization of enterprise IT and most of that talk is fueled from the social web as it invades the enterprise from the bottom up. In this “bring you own” workforce employees are “voting” for web 2.0 type tools over traditional IT provided tools, especially when it comes to collaboration. Employees use Google Docs for group work, Twitter and Facebook to communicate and share, etc. IT of course has many concerns over security, lack of enterprise control, and non-standaridization of use and usage policies.

I think that for the social business movement to really gain CXO level support and widespread adoption a new type of enterprise software tool is necessary. We have to provide the same user experience and outcomes of the consumer social tools but also provide a way to make it “enterprise class” (secure, safe, standardized, etc.) without pushing old user experience paradigms on the employees. This is a massive challenge, especially in a post-recession world where companies are mostly keeping core systems stable and not replacing them. I want to explore this idea more, but I’ll save it for another post, suffice it to say that the enterprise is ready for a new approach to collaboration and a new type of enterprise tool.

That’s where Pulse comes in, it sits at this intersection of secure enterprise class software (built with Novell’s extensive knowledge of enterprise architecture and systems) and yet with the user experience, flexibility and functionality of a web 2.0 tool. I reviewed Google Wave some time ago and while it’s not an enterprise tool, there are many good things about Wave. One of the strongest design concepts that Wave incorporates is the idea of “designed for the web” instead of designed to copy something that existed off line in the past (email : snail mail, computer desktop : desktop). Pulse uses the Google Wave Federation Protocol and incorporates some of the basic design concepts, although Pulse goes much further in meeting enterprise needs. From an IT perspective Pulse supports enterprise security, access control and management standards. Here are a few of the features that I think users will find most compelling:

  • Interoperability with Google Wave, Twitter and other consumer social tools.
  • User controllable / configurable stream of personal and professional information that is managed with the familiar follow paradigm.
  • Unified in-box that includes social sites, email, IM/chat, Wave, etc.
  • Presence / availability
  • Real-time collaboration including team document creation / editing and sharing.
  • Social blog / microblogging that allows users to create content and conversations as well as comment on content created by other users.
  • Swarming (this is one of my favorite features!), a feature that lets users form ad hoc groups / conversations around an emerging topic.
  • User controlled / configured groups.

There are a lot of other features and functions but you get the idea, Pulse is a very powerful and flexible enterprise social tool. Pulse will be available in a cloud model the first half of 2010 and on premise at some point in the future.

 

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