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Social media used to be about posting the details of your weekend adventures and maybe a few embarrassing photos with a circle of friends. That’s no longer the case. Social media has evolved beyond its origins as a novelty for entertainment. The technology has become ubiquitous. Nowhere is that more apparent than at South by Southwest Interactive (SxSWi). Social media is integrated in almost everything we do -- shopping, travel, selecting or restaurant or finding a new employee. Now, the same thing is happening in the enterprise. 

The Enterprise: It’s All Social

Many organizations began embracing social media as a marketing tool -- an extension of their existing marketing strategy. Social technology then flowed internally and became a tool for internal collaboration and better staff engagement .Vendors such as Telligent and Jive entered the market providing tools that felt much like consumer-facing social networks, but with the safety and control of enterprise software. These tools are useful, but they support interaction via a separate interface that independent of the users’ normal work, but that is changing.

Several vendors at this week’s SxSWi in Austin showcased tools that integrate social into enterprise tasks. I spoke with Michael Wier, Chief Marketing Officer, Sparqlight (formerly of Cassandra professional services firm, DataStax) about their new enterprise social workflow tool and Jason Lovelady, Chief Financial Officer, Tracky about their recently funded social project management tool. Each company has made social the core of its platform instead of something users do in addition to their “real work.”

Social Workflow

Sparqlight is a cloud-based social workflow tool that is trying to eliminate the storm of email, meetings and phone calls that is often required to get anything done. Sparqlight, which announced its public beta at SxSWi, allows users to plan and execute workflows socially. Users can post updates, ideas or recommendations for any step and receive feedback. Sparqlight also enables users to assign goals and to-dos with deadlines to individuals, groups or to be claimed by someone. If you’re feeling a little unsure about all this touchy-feely social collaboration, Sparqlight also has an analytics dashboard with several out-of-the-box reports to track progress or view real-time key performance indicators.

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The tool is cool, but it may not be a good fit for enterprise customers who need workflows to integrate with other enterprise systems such as CRM or ERP. Currently, Sparqlight provides connectors only to Yammer and Google Apps. Sparlight is available now, and if you happen to be at SxSWi, you can see a demo at their booth. The software is US$ 20 per  user per month for over 50 users and free for fewer than 50. Potential users should note that organizations with fewer than 50 user seats do not get ownership of their data or administration capabilities.

Social Project Management

Sparqlight isn’t the only vendor embedding social into enterprise tasks hawking their wares at SxSwi. Tracky is also showcasing its new social project management tool and opening it to public beta. Tracky is based on a concept called tracks, hence the name Tracky. Tracks are little bits of information that someone, which Tracky refers to “doers," can act upon; tracks can be a  task, goal or just a quote. Users are organized in project circles, which controls the content they can see or act on. Users can also share files, track time or create milestones.

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Tracky also integrates gamefication with its points of gratitude concept that allows team members to digital thank each other for their performance. Additional details on capabilities are provided on the Tracky site. 

Like Sparqlight, Sparky is interesting, but it lacks many of the advanced project management features to which enterprise users have grown accustomed. However, you could argue that most users only use a small percentage of those features. Tracky is free for up to 5 projects and 100MB of storage and US$ 5 per user per month beyond five projects. Track also offers discounts to organizations with more than 100 user accounts.

Tracky and Sparqlight are two examples of how social is becoming the “new normal” within the enterprise. Although, these tools clearly have their shortcomings, they foreshadow a change in how the enterprise operates. We will likely see many other vendors incorporate social into their platforms to make more collaborative.