On Monday, SuccessFactors, Inc. announced a definitive agreement to acquire Jambok, a social learning company. You could bypass this announcement as just more dealing by software companies (which it is) but it also suggests an interesting combination that will prove to be in synch with the times.
As a social learning company, Jambok leverages social media like YouTube and Facebook and its own technologies that enable users to create mobile video and to share it along with other file types across the enterprise. Jambok is an internal collaboration tool and the combination of Jambok with SuccessFactors’ business execution cloud solution should be attractive. It will enable users to capture ideas on video and share them with peers throughout an organization.
The result will be a social learning environment that will help break down silos and make an organization more nimble at information sharing. We live in an information age and this is important though it’s easy to overlook because so many stories are about information sharing.
Lately we’ve heard this sort of thing on a regular basis, especially from collaboration vendors eager to build and tap into the enterprise collaboration market but we are still early in the effort to capture internal information and share it organizationally.
Now, collaboration using Facebook or an alternative will only take you so far. Although collaboration tools and Facebook also offer the ability to share files, the SuccessFactors and Jambok mashup suggests something bigger — the ability to not only distribute but to capture video.
As you know, I expect video content to become a big part of business in the next few years. But when I first started talking about video it was as a one-way tool for outputting information. This announcement suggests something more bi-directional. However, never forget that for video to be successful at communicating big ideas, it has to be done well — a nebulous concept but you know it when you see it. The same is true for collaboration tools. We’ll wait and see on those fronts.
My favorite way to look at collaboration products is as intellectual property generators. Every time an employee contributes to a stream, he or she is saying (potentially) here’s something we can use to generate revenue. Before collaboration many of the best ideas stayed in people’s minds simply because there was no other outlet. But the act of posting exposes ideas to others and makes them real and converts the potential of an idea into the kinetic of information in action.
In aggregate, social IP generated this way is as important as the designs, patents, knowhow, trade secrets etc. that companies already define as their IP. It’s simply another source. But now with the addition of video capture and sharing we have the potential for something bigger. A video is not simply a way to convey what something is, but how to do something and communicating the how of an idea through a company’s social channel is the potentially big idea.
We should also note that the almost casual IP capture is nearly frictionless, there is just about no cost associated with either capture or dissemination. SuccessFactors thinks that this kind of sharing will likely be a form of training for many companies going forward and the combined company is betting on it. In the press release for this announcement, SuccessFactors noted that the market for employee training is worth $100 billion annually in the U.S. alone. This could result in some amount of disintermediation for trainers and training software but not in a direct sense; I doubt that short employee videos will rival professional training directly — at least immediately.
What’s more likely to me is that this kind of guerilla idea sharing might provide a more reliable stream of information that, over time, may make some forms of training less necessary. I guess you could look at this as drip learning. Rather than a single big training session employees would learn directly from each other in smaller and more digestible increments.
Also, in an organization with multiple locations officially sanctioned guerilla information sharing may make travel a bit less necessary as internal groups find creative ways to share what they know. Less travel with fuel prices rising is a very good thing for the budget.
What’s next? Well, what about involving the customer? If making simple video is easy it would behoove vendors to find ways to enable customers to make videos of their questions, problems, needs and concerns and then share them — internally. Customers already do this and YouTube is full of clips like the regrettable (for United Airlines) “United Breaks Guitars”. Bringing some of this creative energy in house might be a good thing for helping lower your public negatives, if nothing else.
In customers’ hands this kind of technology could add significantly to a customer service knowledgebase and the output might find its way to YouTube, Vimeo or one of the other video sharing hubs. Did you know that YouTube is the second biggest search engine these days? When people want to know something they increasingly turn to YouTube to find a video. I think that’s where all this is going.