It's hard not to listen to the team at Mainsoft (news, site), now rebranded as Harmon.ie, and not "get" the benefits of integrating collaborative capabilities into email. Of course, I live in my email, don't you?
The Social User Experience
It's going to be an interesting conversation as we start to really dive into the social user experience. It's fairly obvious that while everyone sees bringing social into the enterprise as inevitable and necessary, we don't necessarily agree on the right approach.
Harmon.ie (and it's going to take a bit not to want to call them Mainsoft) believes that the solution lies in delivering an experience designed for the non-technical business user. And where do many of these users spend a great deal of their time? In email.
According to Harmon.ie CEO Yaacov Cohen, CIOs understand the concept of social business. They also understand how social networking works in the consumer world and the value it brings. But they are concerned about the impact in the broader enterprise.
Is it about innovation or is it about the business user? Cohen says it can be both. That, he believes, is what Harmon.ie (the product) is all about.
Social Email - The Best of Both Worlds
At Lotusphere, IBM is talking a lot about aggregation platforms, an abstraction layer on top of collaboration platforms. That is what Harmon.ie attempts, quite successfully, to achieve. It's a social channel and collaboration tools on top of email.
Harmon.ie (read all the details here) enables business users to work in their email client of choice (Lotus Notes or Outlook) and have direct integration into the social/collaboration environment they use (SharePoint or Google Docs). Your traditional email client gets an upgrade, aggregating all the content and collaboration tools you need into an environment you already know very well.
The Road Ahead
It has been a good year for
Mainsoft Harmon.ie. They claim a "400 percent year-over-year sales growth of its harmon.ie ‘social email’ products". Now that sounds pretty good and although I don't know the details of that number, I do remember writing about the company not that long ago and it wasn't near as big or well known as it has been since the introduction of Harmon.ie.
I asked Cohen about the roadmap, because things are only getting started for Harmon.ie when you think about it. And he agreed. He spoke of expanding to support multiple social networks to get more information to the business user. He also spoke about cross platform mobile access (which is something the company is known for supporting).
But even more interesting was the idea of making the document a social artifact. This is the idea that we need to make the connection between a document and the people who use it (an activity stream on documents is one approach). This is not necessarily something new, there are a few vendors out there who work with documents in this way (Box.Net is one), but to bring it all together in an email environment will be something different.
Add email and instant messages into that activity stream and life will be good (well it would for me).
Cohen's final advice was simple, to solve the Adoption gap for collaboration in the enterprise, avoid focusing on innovation and selling. Focus instead on actual usage. It's there that you should find your answers.
Does This Mean Social Software is Useless?
You should hear my resounding no. In my world today, social email is a way to make me more productive. But there are places for social software platforms, like Jive, Telligent and all the others, even SharePoint.
I will always go back to the principle of understanding your pain points, know your business problems, know your business users. Find the solution that works for both.