Social media networks like Facebook have revolutionized the way
we communicate with family and friends. But in the corporate world,
Facebook may be frowned upon, even blocked at the corporate
firewall. Using Facebook at work is generally considered
"unproductive". But now there's a way to use the communication and
collaborative capabilities of Facebook in the corporate world,
albeit through a different platform.
MangoSpring, a Seattle-based
company with a development team in Pune, India, is offering a
social platform called MangoApps, that offers the best of both
worlds. A CIO in Mumbai who uses this tool says it combines the
"fun element of Facebook with the seriousness of an enterprise app,
through a simple interface."
MangoSpring is essentially adding a Social Layer on top of
enterprise apps -- so far they have done this for email, CRM, and
Office documents -- on a social intranet platform called MangoApps.
The company is also working with Indian customers to integrate HR
and other enterprise apps with their social collaboration
MangoSpring, founded in 2007, has 3,000 customers in the US and
Europe, which are mostly small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
In an exclusive tele-interview with InformationWeek,
Vishwa Malhotra, Co-Founder & CTO, MangoSpring explained the
changing workplace trends, and how his company is responding to the
new requirements of today's workforce.
"We observed a trend in
enterprises where multiple siloed applications were being used for
communications and collaboration. Enterprises were using a separate
application for email, another for instant messaging, one for
project management and another for task management. This siloed
approach actually hinders productivity. But now the trend is to
have collaboration and communications on one platform. And that's
why we evolved our solution into a single collaborative product,"
The company initially had an enterprise instant messaging
product that later evolved to a broader enterprise communication
platform. Today it has become an enterprise social collaboration
and networking product.
Malhotra admits that the inspiration came after observing
Facebook's success story with consumers. And likewise with Linkedin
Malhotra says MangoSpring has a roadmap and will continually
evolve its products. For now it is offering MangoApps its
enterprise social collaboration platform + social intranet. This
enables employees to collaborate and share information in a secure
environment. The interface is very similar to Facebook. External
entities such as partners and customers can also participate
through this platform. MangoApps offers a suite of enterprise
applications that include document management, project management,
task management, idea management, knowledge management, instant
messaging, micro-blogging, video collaboration etc. It is an
integrated, modular, multi-tiered solution. And it can be hosted
and managed in MangoSpring's data center, or by customers
on-premise, or on a private cloud.
Then there's Social Email, by way of Ignite, a plug-in for MS
Outlook. Ignite links your Outlook email with SharePoint or some
other data repository. It simplifies the process of saving email
attachments to SharePoint -- or picking up files from SharePoint
and attaching these to email. When attaching files to internal
email messages, one can simply drag the file from the central
repository (shown in a window) into the body of the message. A link
to file is included in the mail -- the actual file is not attached.
This saves bandwidth and prevents users from storing copies of the
same file in their Inboxes. It also obviates the need to use file
sharing services and gets round the company file size limitation
for attachments. And of course, it reduces the overhead of archived
mail on the Exchange server.
An application called Tandem makes it easier for users to share
and collaborate on MS Office documents. Traditionally, a group of
users working on a proposal create multiple versions of the
document, and these need to be consolidated. And then, one needs to
deal with multiple revisions made by each user (which version is
the latest?) And users need to remember where they stored their
files, as there are multiple options for storage available
Tandem brings collaborative features to Microsoft Office. Users
can work on the same file in real-time. Since documents are stored
on the cloud, only a single copy of the file exists at all times.
Changes made by users are reflected immediately. Tandem can also
retain multiple versions of the file if required. And it
incorporates comments, discussions and annotations from users, in
the document itself.
Finally, there's Nexus, an app for Social CRM. It is a social
layer built on top of CRM applications such as Salesforce.com,
Oracle-Siebel, and Microsoft Dynamics. There is a roadmap for
supporting more CRM packages informs Malhotra.
While MangoSpring's customers are largely from the SME segment,
Malhotra informs that large enterprises are also taking to this
platform. But there are a set of challenges.
"A common discussion is integration. Customers ask how do we
integrate with existing business systems? Then there is another
challenge wherein customers already have multiple solutions for
collaboration, communication, project management, inventory
management, HR etc. So our challenge is to build a business use
case where Mango apps either replaces one or more of these existing
systems and gives a simpler user interface -- or it
integrates with them," said Malhotra.
Another challenge is deciding the location of the data. For
instance, for an HR application, the customer must decide if the HR
data continues to reside in the current system and accessed through
a MangoApps interface, or does it reside in MangoApps entirely.
Large customers who have made investments in traditional enterprise
apps like SAP and Oracle, are likely to just use MangoApps as a
social collaboration platform that draws data from the enterprise
applications and offers an integrated view. But eventually, some of
these enterprises may move their data and email to the MangoApps
platform because of its simple interface, unified view and useful
Traditional makers of enterprise apps such as SAP and IBM-Lotus
are not going to wait for that to happen. They have also added a
social layer on top of their apps, offering a Facebook-like
interface, with a unified view by way of the activity streams. Just
look at SAP StreamWork or IBM Connections and compare those with
MangoApps. InformationWeek has reported about
IBM Connections and
SAP StreamWork in recent stories on this site.