It's been interesting watching Salesforce.com as the company makes the transition from application to platform, slowly carving off islands of functionality into individual cloud components that can be added into your own applications.
First there was a programming language, then a cloud database, and now with the new Canvas and the Heroku cloud application engine, a rendering service for cloud applications developed in your tool of choice.
With platforms come third-party developers, and with third-party developers come new applications that take platforms in interesting and very different directions. One of those third parties is the UK company CloudApps, which has taken Salesforce's platform and turned it into a tool to help companies measure and manage the carbon footprints of their organisation and staff.
That's an admirable goal in its own right and one that's proven particularly successful as companies aim to meet ever stricter carbon requirements.
At this year's Salesforce Dreamforce event, CloudApps showed us the next stage in their application's evolution: SuMo. While carbon reduction remains an important part of the CloudApps story, SuMo is a very different beast.
It's a tool to help encourage corporate sustainability and social responsibility, and to ensure staff members commit to corporate goals, such as individual health, volunteering, and the environment.
The key issue facing companies that are trying to set a sustainability agenda is just how to measure it. It's all very well counting tonnes of recycled paper, when the real goal should be reducing paper use in the first place. If a company is to be fully sustainable, it needs to be recording, monitoring and reporting everything — focusing on what's being reduced and what's being increased.
But there's no route to success without getting staff buy-in. Employee engagement is key to delivering results, with staff seeing that they're helping make a difference.
That's where SuMo comes in — a tool that helps encourage that engagement using game mechanics to help change behaviours inside an organisation. It can reward contributions and record pledges users make and the challenges they set, along with results. There's also the option of integrating with HR tools to make SuMo part of an employee's evaluation criteria, with the ability to track goals.
SuMo's not just about people. With APIs everywhere, it can be integrated with smart meters and thermostats, even getting data from waste scales in dumpsters.
Sustainability goals can be both individual and corporate, and the metrics from corporate goals can come from smart devices — bringing in live data to help employees see the wider effects of the changes they are making.
The overall aim is to make things more personal, measuring everything in SuMo to encourage behaviour changes. You're able to see that you're making a difference, with a view to the big picture as well as your individual goals.
Where the gamification comes in is in encouraging behaviour changes. If you've picked a SuMo challenge or made a pledge, such as cycling to work, or using video conferencing rather than travelling, you can build up experience to level up — as well as ranking yourself against colleagues and groups. Successful challenges and pledges earn badges, and there's the option to earn points for simply trying to meet a goal.
If you're using Salesforce's Chatter enterprise social tooling, SuMo will send messages through your network. So colleagues can see the commitments you make and comment on them, as well as getting notifications of badges and levels earned.
Making commitments more public has an effect. It encourages you to meet them, as your peers know what you've said you'll do, making the process self-governing and self-monitoring.
The app itself is a native mobile application, built using web technologies in AppCelerator's Titanium. While Salesforce provides the backend service, the app only connects to it via RESTful web APIs, making it easy to port SuMo to other platforms.