Oracle's collaboration vision underscores the growing importance of enterprise 2.0-style communication products. By highlighting Beehive prominently in president Charles Phillip's keynote, the company adds fuel to the legitimacy of bottom-up, peer-to-peer social networking.
The Beehive white paper offers this product overview:
Oracle Beehive is Oracle’s integrated and secure software platform for Enterprise Collaboration. It is a collaborative environment built on a unique model that combines the various communication and coordination services into a comprehensive platform. With Oracle Beehive, organizations learn from their past efforts, share new insights effectively and build a knowledge-based competitive advantage....
Beehive brings the most common collaborative capabilities including time & task management, email, discussions, IM/Presence into an integrated platform.
It's fascinating to see how concepts behind consumer-oriented applications, such as Twitter and Facebook, are being adapted to the corporate environment. Because Beehive's features and function aren't new, the central theme involves pulling the pieces together into an enterprise-friendly wrapper.
Beehive isn't the only example of Oracle enterprise applications using ideas inspired by consumer online services. Senior Vice President of Oracle CRM, Anthony Lye, demonstrated social CRM applications that owed a great debt to consumer services such as Flickr. Anthony acknowledged this point in his excellent presentation.
Oracle isn't alone in recognizing that styles of interaction developed in consumer tools can be used in the enterprise. An enterprise-class, group instant messaging project, called ESME, emerged from SAP's online community. Although ESME's scope and features are narrowly focused, Twitter's influence on ESME's fundamental design is clear. ESME is open source, unlike the Oracle's products.
Several observers at the conference that I spoke with were ho-hum about Beehive. Paul Greenberg, noted CRM expert and author, commented the Beehive demo wasn't presented well:
Although Beehive may have advanced features, the demo didn't show anything we haven't seen over the last 4-5 years."
Paul has an open mind about the possibilities for Beehive, but he was concerned that the demo didn't help users understand why the product is truly unique and innovative.
In contrast to my view that Beehive offers an interesting glimpse of the future, Dennis Howlett thinks it's primarily a move against Microsoft:
Much more will be written about Beehive over the coming days but I suspect this is really a shot across the Microsoft Sharepoint and Exchange.
One thing is clear: the age of user-to-user, cross-organization collaboration has arrived. In the long run, that's a great thing for both individual users and the enterprise.
Given the important role of poor communication in IT failures, tools that lower barriers between colleagues, especially across multiple organizations, are always welcome.
[Image via Paul Doherty.]