Look out; the social revolution has come to enterprise technology. The keynote at this year’s Dreamforce (Salesforce’s Annual Enterprise Cloud Conference) was all about social. CEO Marc Benioff likened the uprising in enterprise social to the revolutions that occurred this year in the Middle East.
On the second day of Dreamforce, Marc Benioff interviewed Eric Schmidt the Chairman of Google. Schmidt also confirmed the importance of social tools and social customers. The Internet has gone through phases, Schmidt believes, and the next phase is the “mobile, local, and social” web. Google has brought the mobile, local, and social aspects into many of their products like Google Plus, Buzz, the Android O/S, Google Deals, and Latitude.
But how is the mobile, local, and social strategy being applied to Google’s Enterprise Apps?
This post examines the MoLoSo features of Google Apps for Business, Google’s messaging and collaboration product for the enterprise.
Mobile strategy in Google Apps
Offline Mail, Calendar and Docs
Google has finally released the offline versions of Google Mail, Calendar and Google Docs for the Chrome browser. This feature is posted in the mobile section because the offline feature is often used when people are trying to access their data from a laptop while traveling and without an Internet connection. The app must be downloaded and installed from the Chrome Web App store. Once installed, users can seamlessly shift between the online and the offline view of Google Mail, Calendar and Docs. Changes users make while in the offline mode will be synced once the user goes back online. The editing feature of Google Docs is not quite ready yet, but users can view all the docs while offline.
Mobile and Tablet Browsers
Remember when the seasoned business commuter had perfected the art of folding in a newspaper in exact thirds so that she could read it on the train without giving her neighbor a paper cut in the face? Now that same commuter can just pull out her mobile device or tablet to skim the latest news, email, daily agenda and pictures from her weekend trip without violating the six inch boundary between her device and her neighbor’s personal space.
Google Apps users have multiple choices when it comes to accessing their mail, calendar and contacts via their mobile device. Mail can be synced with the device’s mail client or read through the browser. Google has created mobile browser versions of Gmail for the most popular mobile platforms including iOS and Android. The “floaty” bar feature allows users to quickly organize messages while viewing them on a small screen.
Some of the most exciting mobile improvements in 2011 have been for Google Docs and Sites. You can now view your Docs on any phone that supports HTML, and you can make edits to those docs on Android and iPhone devices. Say you are standing in line at Starbucks and realize you forgot to add your notes to the agenda for the meeting that starts in fifteen minutes? No need to pick up the phone or send an email, you can just open the meeting doc on your Android device and add your edits.
Google Sites, the less widely used collaboration feature of Google Apps allows users to quickly and easily create collaborative websites. These sites can be used for internal project management, employee profiles or even external websites for smaller businesses.
Google Sites now have a feature that allows them to be formatted for mobile device viewing. This makes quickly viewing company information much easier when on the go.
Local features of Google Apps
Many of the local features of Google Apps can be found in the Google Calendar app.
Time Zone Detection
Frequent travelers will find the auto time zone detection feature of Google Calendar helpful when traveling to new time zones. Nothing is worse than being jet lagged, waking up to realize you’ve missed a meeting because your calendar was set to the wrong time zone.
Scheduling Meetings in Different Time Zones
You can forget about the arithmetic and geography puzzles once a required for scheduling meetings with coworkers in other time zones. A smart feature of Google Calendar is the ability to choose a time zone other than your own when scheduling a meeting. If your colleague tells you the meeting is at 3pm ET, you can select ET when scheduling the meeting. Once the meeting is saved, it will appear automatically on your calendar at 12pm if you are in PT.
The Social Strategy
Google Apps has had social elements in its architecture since the beginning. Built-in chat, simultaneous editing of Google Docs and Doc Sharing add a social element to work. This is especially true of distributed teams who would not have had these types of remote interaction activities ten year ago. If Google Docs and Chat were social wins in the past, what’s in the future of enterprise social strategy?
Social Networking in the Enterprise
Google’s latest social push is Google Plus, a modern social networking tool featuring circles, sparks, hangouts, streams, and photo streaming. Enterprise cloud computing currently has social network products like Chatter and Yammer, but Google Plus could be next?
Currently Google Plus is not available to those with Google Apps accounts (business or personal). There is also no way for businesses to create business profiles in which to interact with their customers. However, the delay in release to Google Apps users is probably due to privacy and security concerns. Coca Cola does not want someone posting the secret Coke recipe to a “Fantasy Football” circle. Google wants to get this release right, unlike the release of Buzz for which they received criticism for not properly explaining to users that some of their posts would be public.
So what will Enterprise social-networking look like once Google Plus is available for Apps users?
For one thing, teammates will be able to take advantage of “Hangouts”, private video conference call rooms for virtual team and client meetings.
Users can also create Circles of coworkers and clients so that they can publish relative news articles and files that will only show up on the stream for members in that Circle. This can be a great way to communicate between weekly meetings instead of using email threads.
Google not only believes that other Internet companies will have success by implementing the mobile, local, and social strategy, they also believe their own products will be more successful with these features. If you are a Google Apps users, the mobile, local, and social revolution is upon us, just refresh your web browser.