BroadVision?s Clearvale Offers Integrated Enterprise Social Networking Platform

Bill Ives By Bill Ives
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Many organizations are implementing both external facing social networking programs, as well as enterprise social networking tools. However, these are often different programs using different tools that are not integrated. BroadVision has introduced Clearvale to address this issue. I recently spoke with Richard Hughes of BroadVision to better understand their Clearvale offering.

Richard first gave me some context for this move. BroadVision began 18 years ago in the eCommerce space and was quite successful with on-premise solutions. They determined that personalization was the key to online commerce. More recently several trends have emerged.  The cloud has arrived along with the move of social networking from the Web to the enterprise, resulting in enterprise 2.0.  Most recently, the concept of social CRM has also come out of the social business movement. BroadVision rightly saw the opportunity to address this new enterprise social networking market. Instead of modifying their consumer Web tools to fit enterprise needs they decided to completely rebuild a tool set specifically designed for enterprise use.

Clearvale is an entirely new product built from the ground up with a focus on people. There are three main groups: employees, customers, and partners.  You can create separate networks for each group but manage them as an integrated system. Richard offered a useful slide on the relationships between enterprise 2.0, social CRM, and the consumer Web social networking. You can see the segments that Clearvale addresses below.

Screen shot 2011-09-12 at 4.21.09 PM
In addition to providing networks for employees, partners, and customers, Clearvale offers a means to connect to public networks such as Facebook as shown by the arrow above. They do not suggest that Clearvale customer communities are a replacement for Facebook. Quite the opposite, they encourage their clients to maintain their branded Facebook pages but use them to direct traffic to their Clearvale enabled customer community where they have more control and monitoring capabilities.  Facebook and a Clearvale powered community can complement each other in the somewhat the same way the Twitter complements blogs as a driver of traffic to the more comprehensive messages and features.

Richard said they have added into Clearvale all of the capabilities associated with making a business social (blogs, wikis, forums, activity streams, LDAP, bookmarking, communities, and much more) so that an organization can have access to a complete set of integrated tools and avoid the best of breed route that often results in silos. You can select which of the functions you want to include in your community. Since you can set up the employee, partner, and customer communities separately so you can vary the functions for each to meet their unique needs. Below is a sample Clearvale screen showing some of the functionality.

Home page

Richard mentioned that when he presented at the recent recent webcast organized by the Boston Enterprise 2.0 conference he asked the audience how many have implemented external communities, how many have implemented internal communities, and how many have done both. If they had done both he asked how many have integrated the two. The most common answer was implement both but not integrated them. The least common answer, even behind the “do nothings,” was integration of external and internal communities. These results make sense to me and this is the challenge that Clearvale addresses quite nicely.

Clearvale is also designed to integrate with enterprise apps such as CRM, HR, and even SharePoint to provide a platform of engagement through social and people focused apps.  I think the term engagement is correct, as a social front end will likely increase enterprise app use. Richard said that if an enterprise social networking tool does integrate with the existing enterprise apps it is limited to simply facilitating water cooler chat. I could not agree more.  This is what enterprise 2.0 needs to do to move beyond Web 2.0 in the enterprise.

Richard mentioned some recent research from the Altimeter Group that points to the need for this out of the box integration. Altimeter found that in the first two years companies tend to spend most of their implement dollars on people to properly manage the effort. By the third year they shift to spending IT dollars to custom technology development, quite likely part of this is directed at integration services. Clearvale is designed to offer this integration upfront.

Clearvale offers three versions.  Clearvale Express is a free version with enough functionality to be useful but not the full set. Clearvale Enterprise contains the full set of features. There is also Clearvale PaasPort that allows third party partners to offer specialized versions. Below is a sample Clearvale Express screen that shows that a lot comes with the free version.

Express personal; page
They also offer a mobile capability and a sample activity stream displayed on a smart phone is shown below.  You can add action items to the activity stream and attach them to a task to monitor results. These types of workflow features are essential to move social networking beyond the chat phase.

Iphone screen

I think that Clearvale has made a number of smart choices in their product design and development. The multi-dimensional integration capability is great vision and one that both simplifies and enriches the adoption of enterprise 2.0

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About Bill Ives
Dr. Bill Ives is an independent consultant and writer who has worked with Fortune 100 companies in business uses of emerging technologies for over 20 years. For several years he led the Knowledge Management Practice for a large consulting firm.. Now he primarily helps companies with their business blogs. He is also the VP of Social Media and blogger for TVissimo, a new TV schedule search engine. Prior to consulting, Dr. Ives was a Research Associate at Harvard University exploring the effects of media on cognition. He obtained his Ph. D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Toronto. Bill can be reached at his blog: Portals and KM. He also writes for the FastForward blog and the AppGap blog.

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