Oracle Gets Social

Here on the AppsLab team we have always been big believers in the power of people as a design point in applications. My personal background is in the portal space, and for years we preached people-centric. In those days, it meant a user had a configurable homepage with all the content they cared about in a single place. It seemed to work well in the consumer space (see MyYahoo), but never quite had a foothold in the enterprise. I am not saying that the homepage wasn’t sold to the enterprise; I am saying it wasn’t used in the enterprise. Most everyone I knew still went to their MyYahoo page. Something was amiss.

Here we are a few years later and it took sites like MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIN and others to show us where we went wrong. The key difference with social sites is that they focus on the connection of people to people. Early portals worried about people connecting to things. People, it seems, are much more interested in other human beings.

In AppsLab we decided to test our belief that there is a real role for social software behind the firewall. Think about it, what are companies if nothing more than the accumulation of talented people?

As we set off on this path we realized that like most of our readers we all had LinkedIN accounts, Facebook profiles, and more. As we began exploring these sites, it became clear that no matter how many people signed up, there were very few who actually used the sites for anything meaningful. In fact, more and more I’d find myself checking my Facebook account just for the ego trip of seeing who “friended” me. After the usual let down (0 friend requests again!), I’d logout and head back home… to my email inbox of course.

So why is it that millions and millions of people can find so much value in these sites, yet for those of us working for the man, we find social sites to be just an interesting experiment rather than an integral part of our daily lives. If you asked the average MySpacer, I can guarantee you that MySpace has become central to them. Their life is on MySpace – you can tell by the fact that the average user stays on the site 27 minutes a day.

So why does this work for MySpace? The simple reason is that they have what their users care about. Behind the firewall however, photos and music don’t go very far. Given our unique position in enterprise software, we like to think we are well poised to provide what business users are actually interested in.

So we set out on this path to understand social networking behind the firewall. Last Friday we launched our first social application. It was a basic directory application with employee names, titles, emails and phone numbers. That’s about it. Rich built it in just a few weeks. The only differentiating feature from our current corporate directory, was that we allowed employees to request other employees to “join their network”.

To “launch” our Alpha, I sent an email to a group of a few hundred people inside Oracle. In the first hour of operation we went from 3 users (Jake, Rich, and I) to over 270 users. After 10hrs we were nearing 2,000 users and today we hit 10,000. Just over 1/7th of the entire company in under 3 business days. No marketing. No master plan. This was an experiment, remember. We were dumbstruck.

I don’t think any of us slept the first night. Our thoughts were racing and they continue to race to this day. Throughout it all, we were wondering if our little app was actually going to hold up. Amazingly, no major issues yet and we are going strong thanks to Rich’s fast hands and Jake diligently answering all those emails from users with shouts of encouragement, feature requests, and the occasional security question.

We’ll have much more information about this project and some lessons learned along the way in the future. For now, back to making social a reality at Oracle.

AboutPaul

a.k.a.:ppedrazzi

52 comments

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  5. Congratulations! We are all very excited to see your project succeed. Please be sure to post information about how you are collecting enhancement suggestions when you get that worked out.

  6. Congratulations! We are all very excited to see your project succeed. Please be sure to post information about how you are collecting enhancement suggestions when you get that worked out.

  7. Tim: Commented in your blog, dunno if it committed, grrr. So, your list and ours are very close. Keep checking back b/c we’re rolling new features every day, e.g. picture upload went live today. Rich did that before he went hacking.
    Jake

  8. Tim: Commented in your blog, dunno if it committed, grrr. So, your list and ours are very close. Keep checking back b/c we’re rolling new features every day, e.g. picture upload went live today. Rich did that before he went hacking.
    Jake

  9. So what’s your social app called? How can us developers see it from the other side of the firewall? Can you see any reason why we should NOT be able to use it?

    A decade ago I had an interesting conversation with one of your engineers regarding making Designer available for download, to “jumpstart” the number of Designer-fluent developers. Then lo and behold, it magically appeared on OTN (if just for a couple of weeks). Now Oracle routinely makes all of it software free for the download. So you see, freely sharing ideas works.

    You get your best ideas from your customers. So let us inside your organization just a little bit. Make your employees visible to us as they are to each other.

  10. So what’s your social app called? How can us developers see it from the other side of the firewall? Can you see any reason why we should NOT be able to use it?

    A decade ago I had an interesting conversation with one of your engineers regarding making Designer available for download, to “jumpstart” the number of Designer-fluent developers. Then lo and behold, it magically appeared on OTN (if just for a couple of weeks). Now Oracle routinely makes all of it software free for the download. So you see, freely sharing ideas works.

    You get your best ideas from your customers. So let us inside your organization just a little bit. Make your employees visible to us as they are to each other.

  11. Hi Dan,

    The sharing of ideas between customers and employees is hugely valuable and we do it today via many, many avenues (focus groups, online forums, customer support calls, etc).

    Now, are these systems as collaborative as I’d like? Of course not, but we know its required and it’s on our radar, so stay tuned.

    The truth is that sharing ideas does not require a completely open social directory. In fact, there are lots of reasons (legal, competitive, IT security, etc) not to put an employee directory on the web. I can’t name a single large (or small frankly) enterprise that does that today: GE, IBM, Bechtel, MSFT, ORCL, JP Morgan, etc, etc.

    It’s an interesting idea for sure, but given where the world is with the adoption of “2.0” I think the opening of everyone’s corporate hierarchy is a ways off.

    Thanks for the comments and pushing the envelope.

    Paul

  12. Hi Dan,

    The sharing of ideas between customers and employees is hugely valuable and we do it today via many, many avenues (focus groups, online forums, customer support calls, etc).

    Now, are these systems as collaborative as I’d like? Of course not, but we know its required and it’s on our radar, so stay tuned.

    The truth is that sharing ideas does not require a completely open social directory. In fact, there are lots of reasons (legal, competitive, IT security, etc) not to put an employee directory on the web. I can’t name a single large (or small frankly) enterprise that does that today: GE, IBM, Bechtel, MSFT, ORCL, JP Morgan, etc, etc.

    It’s an interesting idea for sure, but given where the world is with the adoption of “2.0” I think the opening of everyone’s corporate hierarchy is a ways off.

    Thanks for the comments and pushing the envelope.

    Paul

  13. More companies should look into the idea of hosting their own local social network, especially larger companies. Sitting in a cubicle all day doesn't promote human interaction, providing a place to meet people you already work with is a great concept. From a business perspective, it also allows for it to be moderated and controlled, which some users may not care for however.

  14. Nice to have found this site and see what you all are doing in this area. Would be very interested in hearing more since the original post was a year and half ago. My company is actually planning a March webinar on “Building Employee Branding And Engagement With Internal Social Networks” Currently participating is the Mayo Clinic and EMC Corporation. Wondering if you might be interested in being involved and sharing your experiences and insight. Let me know via email and we can discuss. Thanks!!

  15. Hi there. Yeah, we've been working on Connect for a while now. I did a short history-nostalgic post when we launched our most recent redesign if you want more background. Will drop you an email.

  16. Hi, what is the name of your company? I am interested in letting my boss know about this webinar… we are currently doing research on internal social networking. Thanks!
    adrea@ufl.edu

  17. Hi Adrea. I think you're looking for Communitelligence. They're having a webinar tomorrow that will cover what we (Oracle AppsLab) have done internally with social networking.

    I think you're looking for Rick Sauter over at Communitelligence.

  18. Great article, very interesting read! Our business had found that by having an internal social network and an external custom social network both the employees and the business are benefitting. It has fostered a true sense of teamwork and collaboration and has increased productivity. From the companywide virtual bulletin boards to our private work groups sharing ideas and information had never been easier. Misplaced files and lost notes that could potentially hold up progress have now mostly been avoided. Our clients enjoy the custom social networking as well, it has improved customer retention and loyalty and greated increased response times to inquiries.

  19. Thanks. We're seeing the same wins from Connect and Mix. It's funny to look back to when this post was written and see how far social has come since then.

  20. Great article, very interesting read! Our business had found that by having an internal social network and an external custom social network both the employees and the business are benefitting. It has fostered a true sense of teamwork and collaboration and has increased productivity. From the companywide virtual bulletin boards to our private work groups sharing ideas and information had never been easier. Misplaced files and lost notes that could potentially hold up progress have now mostly been avoided. Our clients enjoy the custom social networking as well, it has improved customer retention and loyalty and greated increased response times to inquiries.

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