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Tibbr comes from Tibco, best known for its integration middleware and very high performance messaging, particularly for Wall Street transactions and alerts. HP reportedly flirted with acquiring Tibco last year, but it remains an independent, midsize company with a good reputation for enterprise software.
"We liked Tibbr primarily because of its integration background," said Chris Robinson, CIO of KPMG in Australia, which has several thousand users active in a Tibbr pilot project to determine whether the technology makes sense to deploy globally. "Our chief knowledge officer was concerned about having another channel that didn't integrate."
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By the time KPMG went looking for an official solution, thousands of its employees had already signed up for unsanctioned instances of Yammer, a cloud social networking service that offers a basic version of its service for free. The adoption of Yammer was evidence of a "latent interest in enterprise social networking," Robinson said. "We saw people had demand for a tool like this, because it's so easy to go out and create Yammer groups. We didn't want to be draconian about switching that off, but we do want people to move over to Tibbr."
As the pilot progressed and more activity migrated to Tibbr, "the Yammer groups withered on the vine," Robinson said.
Ram Menon, president of the social computing group at Tibco, said Tibbr succeeds where some other enterprise social software products fail because users will adopt it without the need for a corporate mandate or herculean efforts at cultural change. "When you hear, 'Oh, it's the cultural change that's so difficult,' that's because the tools haven't done the job. If the tool does the job, people are going to use it."
Tibco's integration experience "lets us pull from big, bad applications precisely the information you need and show it on your wall, as you need it," Menon said.
First released a year ago, after an extended beta, Tibbr puts particular emphasis on integrating feeds from applications, as well as status posts from users, so that social interaction can take place "in the flow of work," Menon said. Tibbr has been deployed to hundreds of thousands of employees across global enterprises, as well as smaller firms, according to Tibco. Prominent customers include Macy's, which wants to use Tibbr to share knowledge about what is happening in its stores and what is selling best, including informal input from store employees about how customers are reacting to different products, Menon said.
The upcoming Tibbr 3.5 release is introducing a new mobile client, with a mix of native and HTML5 capabilities, as well as a new geolocation feature. Menon describes Tibbr GEO as "having the location check in to you, rather than you check into the location." The idea is that enterprises can tag important locations so employees will automatically get contextual feeds when they visit. For example, an airline might broadcast contextual alerts associated with a gate.
Robinson said he had not yet tried the new functionality. The pilot initially did not include the Tibbr mobile client, partly because KPMG wanted to get a new mobile device management regime in place for its iPhone users first. That should be completed within the next month and ought to offer a boost to Tibbr adoption, since so much social media interaction has migrated from the PC to the smart phone, he said.
KPMG's IT organization did consider sanctifying Yammer as the official solution, but rejected it because Yammer is only available as software as a service, with no option for on-premises deployment. "Client confidentiality is hugely important to us," Robinson said. "KPMG has taken some very initial steps into cloud, but the vast majority of our legal jurisdictions and our clients did not want conversations taking place in that cross-border environment."
Tibbr is available as a cloud service, but also for on-premises deployment. KPMG also is in the midst of a smaller trial of Jive Software's enterprise social networking for a few hundred people within its global knowledge management community, Robinson said. The final decision on which platform to deploy globally will be made in the next few months. However, Tibbr is following the same path as some of KPMG's other global technology choices--for example, the current global rollout of SAP also began with a pilot in Australia, which is seen as a large enough market to serve as a good testing ground, he said.
One goal of the enterprise social media program is to help new employees learn their way around the organization more quickly and improve retention, Robinson said. It's typical for turnover to run about 20 percent annually as the business executives of tomorrow, fresh out of school, use a consulting stint as intensive training in business management. However, KPMG also recruits more experienced business executives whom it doesn't want to see slip through its fingers so easily.
"We do have people coming in with an extensive track record in private commerce, and often it's difficult for them to assimilate, coming onboard in a large organization," Robinson said. He sees the online social environment, with its wealth of interest groups, "starting to help with that retention issue."
Another Tibbr customer is iHealth Referral Network, a Houston-area online system that coordinates referrals between physicians as part of a Texas healthcare exchange. Simplifying the referral paperwork is the primary benefit of the service, but to make it more attractive iHealth is using Tibbr to allow doctors to collaborate with peers within their own practice, a hospital, a hospital system, or a broader community of doctors in the region. For example, a cardiologist could target a question to other doctors in his specialty at any of those layers of organization, iHealth President Chris Stephens said. "It's a way to reach multiple groups of people rather than sending emails," he said.
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