Tibco's tibbr and the social employee...

Tibco Software's tibbr brings what's called "social computing" to the enterprise. The "socialization" of apps is a key feature...
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

Vivek Ranadivé, (above) CEO of Tibco Software today launched tibbr, described as a social computing tool for the enterprise.

It uses a similar approach to Facebook and Twitter that allows staff to "follow" each other and subscribe to specific subjects within the corporation.

The tibbr software is available as a cloud-based service or in-house for $12 per user per month.

A key feature is that tibbr allows users to "follow" a specific subject rather than having to follow a person and see everything that they publish.

"I like to follow Shaq on Twitter but I'm not interested in what Shaq had for lunch. But I am interested in what he has to say about basketball games," said Vivek Ranadivé, founder and CEO of Tibco.

Tibco said it has filed for patent protection around this idea of subscribing to subjects rather than people.

Tibbr was first introduced in late 2009 in an alpha version and has since been remade and relaunched "enterprise ready" to conform with compliance, governance, and security procedures.

Mr Ranadivé said that there are already 40,000 users compared with about 100,000 users of Chattr from Salesforce.com. Other competing products include Yammer, SocialText, Jive Software and Clearvale from Broadvision.

Another key feature of tibbr is that users can subscribe to a specific business process such as a SAP module, or a Salesforce CRM module.

"We can integrate any software into tibbr. We can even run Chattr inside tibbr. We have an adapter factory with nearly 500 people working on creating and maintaining adapters," said Mr Ranadivé.

Users can also set up private communications channels and meeting rooms that are invisible to others inside the company.

Mr Ranadivé said that tibbr won't have an effect on Tibco revenues over the short term. But that it can grow into a good sized business in its own right and it can help sell other Tibco software such as business intelligence.

Ram Menon, Executive Vice President and Head of Worldwide Marketing, said that tibbr fulfills the mission of Tibco: to bring the right information, to the right person, at the right time.

"It's about context. If content was king, then in the 21st century context will be king," said Mr Menon.

John Scarpelli, VP of Technology for CIBER, is an enthusiastic user of tibbr. He said about 8500 staff are using it and it replaces a free version of Yammer.

He is a well known critic of email and believes that tibbr can replace some of the email at his company.

"It hasn't happened yet as we've only been using tibbr for a few months ... but reduced email use will be one of our metrics," said Mr Scarpelli. "So far, we like the energy and the virality of tibbr inside our company."

Charlene Li, analyst and founder of the Altimeter Group, said that applications such as tibbr need to have a structured rollout. Too many times there is a suck it and see attitude; she said companies need to move beyond that stage and have clear plans for deployment.

She added that tibbr has the potential to have an important impact. "Often what happens is that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, this eliminates that from happening," said Ms Li.

However, there are still many questions around how tibbr, and other similar services, will actually be used within a business setting. An open company culture would certainly help unlock the full value of tibbr but most staff are used to operating in a more private setting.

Vivek Singh, senior manager at HCL, a systems integrator said, "Some staff associate knowledge with power, and sometimes they aren't that willing to share information that helps others. If everyone does that then the how will that affect tibbr users?"

Another barrier to sharing is that there are plenty of new regulations in nearly every sector; they govern what type of business information can be disclosed within a company.

That might cause users to choose the private setting in most internal engagements, as a safe default. And that would greatly reduce the value of social computing tools.

Changing staff behavior is tough and it needs to be done from the top. Ms Li talks about the importance of leadership within organizations.

The right leadership is necessary in changing a company's culture and in helping staff experience the value of a more open business environment. She has a book on this subject: Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead

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Foremski's Take:

Dennis Howlett, my colleague here at ZDNet, is very enthused about tibbr because of the integration that Tibco can provide. I agree, and this is how tibbr could potentially become a widely used personal business dashboard for any employee.

It's that ability to integrate feeds and APIs from nearly any source that will set tibbr apart from its competition.

- Tibco has plenty of experience with integrating complex IT systems;

- Tibco knows how to deal with feeds, its systems handle three trillion messages a day.

The challenge for tibbr will likely come from the culture of each business and how quickly it is willing to change.

It will be fascinating to see how business organizations will be affected by using tools such as tibbr.

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