One of my ongoing themes is how cloud computing is transforming the way businesses organize themselves and the way people work together. Perhaps the most impactful change enabled by the cloud is in giving individual employees far more autonomy and independence than ever before. It makes it much easier for them to do things such as view information, make decisions and take actions, wherever they happen to be. This is enabled by a combination of factors that all come together on the cloud platform — rich mobile clients, real-time information and advanced personalization capabilities.
All of this is enabling a new phenomenon: user curated content. Unlike user generated content, which is the established name for popular content created and uploaded to the Web such as blogs, Flickr pictures, YouTube videos and so on, user curated content is already-existing content which a user has filtered, flagged or organized in some way. In some senses this is a better term for much of the repurposed clips from broadcast and archive material that we see on YouTube, or for Twitter's constant stream of retweets and shortform links. But it really comes into its own, I believe, in the enterprise application space because of the impact on working patterns and business process.
In enterprise applications, we see user curated content coming up very strongly in areas such as mashups, social media and personalized reporting and dashboards. It's especially strong in SaaS applications, where the ability to self-configure reporting, information feeds and workflow processes creates many opportunities for user curation of content.
One of my favorite illustrations of this principle when I'm speaking on the topic of business transformation through cloud was unexpectedly brought to life last week. I've been using the example of employees accessing real-time data so that they can proactively monitor how they're doing against the performance goals they've been set. Lo and behold, this is the exact product that flows from Successfactors' acquisition of real-time analytics app YouCalc, announced last week.
The acquisition is designed to help SuccessFactors deliver on its promise of enabling 'business execution' by giving employees more timely, actionable information about their performance against goals. Instead of waiting until a quarterly performance appraisal or a monthly bonus statement to find out how they measured up, they can actually monitor themselves in real-time and have the chance to fine-tune their achievement while it still counts.
"A lot of people will know what their goals are but won't know how they are doing so far — which goal to focus on or where they'll be if they continue at the current rate of progress," explained Rasmus Aaen Madsen, YouCalc's CEO and now SuccessFactors EMEA VP of product management, in a telephone briefing before the announcement.
What differentiates YouCalc is its ability to connect data sources in real-time, fetching fresh information, on demand. "This allows us to connect execution data with operational data," such as salaries, goals, achievement, Madsen told me. "If you talk about performance by a call center team, that's customer satisfaction levels, average call completion time, etcetera ... By using the Calculator in the Cloud tool to connect to other sources of data, we can provide a unified view of a team or an individual in an organisation."
SuccessFactors will introduce the YouCalc technology into its platform as Live Forms, which provides the ability to create sophisticated custom analytics and visualizations. But unlike more traditional analytics tools, this is "not aimed at analysts and financial experts, it's for ordinary business users," said Madsen. In the demonstration I saw, it was easy to make 'what-if' changes to an example where the user was able to visualize the effect of salary changes on high and low performers in a team. This is a great example of information being brought into a personalized dashboard environment where it's easy for ordinary users to select and manipulate it.
We're going to see a lot more examples of users being able to curate their own content (Salesforce.com's Chatter streams are another example in the enterprise space). This SuccessFactors example in particular I think really highlights the impact it can make on the way businesses operate because it goes such a long way towards improving the alignment of day-to-day operational decision-making with the overall goals of the organization as a whole.