Last week’s Google I/O left me feeling very optimistic for what’s to come in the world of web apps. I don’t have a whole lot to add to the coverage of Google Wave and the other cool things disclosed at I/O. However, after seeing the demo of Google Wave, I couldn’t help but think of the possibilities of the platform as it relates to the Enterprise world. Today, Jake and I were just discussing how Google Wave is actually a huge enterprise play for Google. I haven’t seen much coverage about this but if you think about it, Google has been creeping into the Enterprise for the last several years. Google Wave is most likely the platform it will use to expand that strategy.
Google Wave as it stands is a collaboration app. It ties together all forms of communication and collaboration in a nice browser based app. The biggest features of Google Wave are those that haven’t been built yet. Google Wave’s underlying platform was built for extensibility — for features that haven’t yet been thought up. Most of the features that were demonstrated are cool techie-whizzbang features that web devs and web aficionados appreciate — features like live concurrent editing. However, for average consumers, I’d argue that live concurrent editing isn’t that big a deal. Think about it… most people are so accustomed to delayed communication patterns (email and snail mail) rather than the real-time, instant feedback style of communication that we get when using instant messaging or sms. I suspect that’s not going to change for most consumers. Regardless, I love the live concurrent editing feature, but I think the Enterprise is where a feature like that will be very useful. Collaborating on documents in real-time is a great feature and one we’ve used in the past with Google Docs. Since Google Wave will allow developers to build on top of this technology, think of what type of apps you can build that utilize live concurrent editing. What if you can build a Bespin type of app inside Google Wave and make writing code a collaborative task. Those of us who practice agile development and TDD do this already, but what if we could do it in one application that allows us to easily mashup other commonly related tasks — like automatically creating bug reports and user stories in external apps, etc?
Google Wave’s extensions consist of robots and gadgets. Robots are basically participants that you can add to your wave that allow you to automate certain tasks within a wave. A robot can read the contents of a wave and then perform an action. There’s a myriad of robots you could create that will allow an enterprise worker to be more productive. Here are a few:“Expensie”
One common example that pops up whenever someone is talking about some enterprisey thing are expense reports. We could build a robot that can be used to create or append to an expense report out of web receipts you receive. All you have to do is add “Expensie” to the receipts you receive.
How about a robot that streamlines the whole recruiting process. An applicant applies for a job through some standard web based form, that form gets sent to the recruiter and a new wave is created. Now the applicant and recruiter can collaborate within the wave. But, to automate the process, the “Recruitie” (recruiting assistant) robot is added to the wave by the recruiter. This robot’s job is to schedule the candidate’s interviews with interviewers and make sure the candidate is well informed of the process. It’s also responsible for making sure that the interviewer is well informed of who the candidate is by packaging up a “file” (resume, cover letter, and automated background search results facilitated by Google search) for the interviewer to review prior to the interview. Once the interviews have taken place, the robot can solicit an evaluation and vote from each interviewer then notify the hiring manager and the recruiter of the results. Once the hiring manager makes a decision to hire or not, the “Recruitie” robot carries out the appropriate tasks. If hired, the appropriate notifications are sent to the candidate and then a new robot (“Onboardie”) is added to the wave to begin the on-boarding process for the candidate.
This may seem like a standard recruiting workflow found in other systems (including ours), however, the big difference is in where this process takes place. In this case, the wave becomes the central source of truth from beginning to end with all participants interacting within the same system. The user experience is simple, clean and very intuitive. It’s not a series of web based forms but more like a checklist that different participants engage with.
There are so many interesting examples that can be applied using the Google Wave paradigm. My head is still spinning with ideas. One thing’s for sure, we’re definitely going to kick the tires and build some of these ideas out. Let us know if you’d like to participate. Google Wave is ripe for enterprises.