For the longest time we've been told to anticipate the consumerization of enterprise technology. The example that's always thrown out is Facebook and how it serves as a metaphor for servies and applications that are self evident. My take has always been that Facebook is a mess and even now I struggle to weave my way through it. But then many millions are perfectly happy with what it offers. I'm told that underneath the covers, there is a serious amount of science.
But all that changed last week when I met Loic LeMeur, CEO Seesmic. I've known Loic many years. While he comes from the world of consumer technologies, starting with blogs, moving on to the video commenting technology his company built and today into the Seesmic client for social networks we have always argued about whether it was ever possible to monetize services that start out as free.
All that changed last year when he met with Marc Benioff, CEO Saleforce.com and asked if he could build an integration to Seesmic for Salesforce.com's Chatter. Today, the only thing that Seesmic is focused upon is the enterprise. That work can be monetized where the consumer client could never drive value back to Seesmic.
But here's the thing. Seesmic is bringing years of experience building mobile clients for Android, Windows Smartphones, BlackBerry, iPhone and iPad to the enterprise. As Loic says in the above video, Seesmic has done the hard work understanding the behaviors users expect, the features they want and the platforms upon which they want those technologies to reside. From Salesforce.com (and Dell's) perspective, it means they avoid the investment risk of building for mobile. That risk comes from not knowing which platform(s) will dominate but in reality having to develop for all the major mobile platforms. It's a complex task.
What was staggering to me is that Seesmic was able to build for Dell's Windows 7 mobile in six weeks and then roll out to its many users. That sort of development cycle is almost unheard of in the enterprise. What was even more breathtaking was when Loic explained to me that his company is now building a way for Seesmic to integrate directly to Salesforce.com CRM. This is where the real power of what Seesmic has done kicks in.
Imagine that a person Tweets or puts up a Facebook Wall message that they're looking for a Nissan (say) vehicle. That becomes a potential opportunity that can be captured directly into Salesforce.com via Seesmic. The same might go for someone with a service request. The consumer doesn't need to do anything because Salesforce.com kicks in and manages the opportunity.
Assuming Seesmic is able to make that work and participate in automating the process, then that's a transformational change in sales and service situations. By any standards, that's impressive.
This is one example of how Seesmic can act as a window onto the world, operating in a socially agnostic fashion, acting as a capturing mechanism while traversing both the consumer and enterprise worlds.
While I will readily confess to not having understood how consumer meets enterprise, I see in this one example something that has brought clarity. On the video, it is obvious that Loic is very excited by the possibilities. I can see why. He has the opportunity to reach a good percentage of Salesforce.com's 3 million users in addition to Seesmic's one million other users.
As we head into SAPPHIRENow 2011, I wonder what will be SAP's reaction to this style of development?