As Dion Hinchcliffe recently explained on his ZDNet blog, enterprise mashups are getting ready for prime-time. He points to new tools, such as IBM's new wiki platform, as an example of the transition of mashups from Web hackerdom to corporate respectability.
For mashups, APIs, REST, social networking and other elements categorized as Web 2.0 to be accepted by enterprise IT shops, they have to do more than hook up Google Maps to a customer database or make a search widget. It's about atomizing enterprise application components and exposing them as Web services, and improving the browser-based user experience with technologies such as AJAX.
SuccessFactors hopes to become a poster child for enterprise Web 2.0 broadly defined. The company launched its NEXT Labs today, which is focused on creating interactive applications integrated with what SuccessFactors calls its 'on demand performance and talent management' (also known as human capital management) suite.
SuccessFactors has a big petri dish. The company has more than 2 million users across 138 countries and 40 industries. The company claims that it has grown from 275 to 1000 customers in the last 12 months. For example, Kimberly-Clark has 19,500 users in 63 countries and 14 languages.
'"For us, every employee is a user," Rob Bernshteyn, vice president of product marketing, told me. "Success is measured by satisfaction of end users. We take a consumer-centric approach to delivering value."
So far SuccessFactors NEXT Labs developed 30 prototypes, of which three have been integrated into the suite--SMART Goal Wizard (a goal writing assistant), Employee Directory (an internal social networking platform for employee collaboration) and Quick Cards (an electronic business card, allowing users to connect to other employees and access their goals, profile, and other data). Other prototypes in the works include Outlook integration, a personalized home page, Google Maps integration, dynamic organization charting, desktop widgets and performance charting.
The Employee Directory includes social networking features, such as tags, a chat client and blogs.
Career Exploration, due in May, allows users to see how others in similar positions have progressed in their careers
A MySpace-like prototype uses a business context for a personalized portal
While the SuccessFactors mashups, widgets and other integrations siginificantly improve usability of the suite--and for talent management applications usability translates into user adoption, a critical factor --it is more of a closed loop affair. SuccessFactors does provide integration with relevant ERP software, benefits systems, etc, Bernshteyn said, but the company has not yet taken the platform approach of salesforce.com, exposing its APIs so that third-parties can build components that integrate with its software. That would be a logical next step if SuccessFactors wants to unleash a bigger wave of innovation.