Socializing Data, Not Just People

B. Shimmin
B. Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

  • Collaboration players accustomed to putting people above data can learn a thing or two from infrastructure vendors steeped in the rigors of data integration, event processing, and systems automation.
  • TIBCO’s new geolocation service, tibbr GEO, successfully turns a physical location into a contextual data hub where information is socialized alongside people.

I spent most of my early years skiing in the Rocky Mountains, a fact which has apparently skewed the way I perceive the world.  This worldview, as my wife has pointed out many times, makes me drive too fast and complain about a distinct shortage of mountains in the Northeast.  It is the same for technology companies.  Early experiences inform future actions.  A vendor steeped in messaging, for example, views the collaboration business as a people-driven equation.  So, what happens when a vendor accustomed to viewing all business problems as being data-driven approaches collaboration?

When application infrastructure vendor TIBCO released a social networking platform called tibbr early in 2011, the move seemed like an odd fit for a vendor dedicated not to people, but instead to data integration, event processing, and systems automation.  Approximately one year later, that move has taken an interesting turn due to the introduction of tibbr GEO (a part of tibbr 3.5), a geolocation service capable of turning a physical location into a contextual data hub.  Geolocation is nothing new.  Most collaboration products sport some form of location-aware “check in” service.  TIBCO’s approach, however, turns this notion on its head, putting data at the center of location, not people.  For example, when a lawyer enters a given courtroom at a particular time, his/her mobile device would present information critical to that time and place and connect him/her with others who will play a role in the upcoming proceedings.

Such a data-centric approach does not merely play to TIBCO’s strengths in correlating complex data in real time; it is predicated upon those capabilities.  This proves two things.  First, enterprise social networking platforms, because they seek to humanize business processes, can benefit from a close association with the infrastructure upon which those systems processes run.  Second, innovation is driven by friction.  Vendors should not be afraid to push into new market opportunities.  We have seen positive results driven by odd pairings before, such as networking vendor Cisco moving successfully into voice and then video.  Coincidentally, Cisco intends to do the same thing in plying its networking expertise in delivering an enterprise social networking platform that interweaves video and audio technologies.

TIBCO, similar to Cisco, is exploring the space in between well-charted regions such as collaboration and infrastructure.  This is a risky practice, since it pushes a vendor into uncharted territory – a move that can be problematic, particularly in terms of matching sales and support to new market opportunities.  Still, such investments can move a vendor into a clearly differentiated position, especially opposite rivals lacking the technological breadth and courage necessary to simultaneously honor and break free from their past.

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