A relative newcomer to the IT industry, Trampoline Systems, has just launched an even newer product called Sonar Flightdeck. So far so what, you might be thinking, but what Trampoline is claiming to offer is ever so slightly innovative. The vendor's aim is to help your organization achieve that holy grail of harnessing the intelligence trapped within your workforce, boosting productivity and ready access to important information.
Chief executive of Trampoline, Charles Armstrong, believes a generational shift is occurring in the way businesses achieve productivity gains, and in many ways he is right. From around the 60s through to the early 2000s, process automation was the main means by which firms achieved these ends, but once everything has been automated, where do you turn? Well, the answer according to Trampoline is to the collective or social intelligence of your staff. This is enterprise social networking – understanding how individuals and groups within the organisation interact and the expertise and knowledge they possess.
Now this is way outside the comfort zone of your average organisation, but Armstrong says he has been "impressed and surprised" by the extent to which IT executives have warmed to these themes. It could be viewed as the slow creeping of social networking ideas into the enterprise, just as other primarily consumer-based technologies have crept quietly into business over the years.
So how does the technology work? Trampoline's offerings at least are all based on the Sonar platform, which mines all the important information from users' data sources – emails, document stores, databases and so on – and runs some clever algorithms on them to deduce various things about the sender. The end result is that you can view in a neat graphical display the information flows, areas of expertise and social networks in the organisation, and then refine it by various criteria. Flightdeck is especially targeted at managers looking to see where the concentrations of expertise are and where the holes are, which Armstrong added is particular popular with firms undertaking change management and mergers and acquisition activities.
But does this flash technology have a future or is it all a bit too far out to get widespread organisational acceptance? Well, it's probably right to liken it to BI a few years back, which was being trialed only by a few very brave and forward-thinking firms – the same could very well be true of enterprise social intelligence. As Armstrong argues, perhaps the advent of a recession will give firms the push they need to investigate new ways of boosting productivity, getting more out of their existing human resources and becoming more agile. Perhaps.