Its product may have launched in January 2007, but Connectbeam, Inc. has already earned a high profile and glowing reviews by offering an ingenious combination of bookmarking, tagging, and social software functionality in an application based solely on and squarely at the enterprise user.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company, which is venture-backed and privately held, recognized that enterprise workers spend a significant portion of each day trying to find relevant, accurate information related to their current projects, and that connecting with knowledgeable colleagues within their own organizations was sometimes difficult. A few companies tried to address these issues by adapting consumer-oriented solutions to their in-house needs, but the results were largely unsatisfactory.
Puneet Gupta, Connectbeam's founder and CEO, says this is due to the unique role of social networking within enterprise environments. "Social networking inside business stems from information access and discovery: Who can help me get my job done quicker and better?" Connectbeam’s application was designed from the ground up as an enterprise solution. It works as a layer on top of existing information repositories and collaboration environments, allowing enterprise employees to more easily store, retrieve, discover, and share information.
By leveraging the precepts of social bookmarking, Connectbeam enables enterprise users to tag relevant information and share it with colleagues who may be working on similar issues. Social networking also comes into play, as enterprise users can comment on bookmarks and easily identify others within their organization who have tagged the same site or used the same search term. This makes it easier to connect to like-minded colleagues for project work or expertise requests.
Each user sets up a live profile that includes contact information as well as the user's tag cloud, which provides further information about areas of interest and expertise to shortcut the time to connect between colleagues within an organization. "The goal with Connectbeam is to reduce time to action," says Gupta. "You can see the quality associated with the search results based on a human touch point," when others in the organization take the time to comment, tag, or bookmark a particular search result.
A key benefit of Connectbeam is its plug-and-play functionality. The application is delivered as a turnkey appliance that sits behind the corporate firewall and that can be scaled for 100 to 100,000-plus users. It can be integrated into the existing enterprise search solution so searches run on internal and external information resources can be immediately tagged and shared with the user’s network. Search results are displayed using an algorithm based on the number of times the link has been saved by others in the organization, reinforcing the idea of the social network. Security settings enable users to designate bookmark groups as private—suitable for setting up a departmental or project-based topic—or corporate-wide.
While the product officially launched in January 2007, a sneak preview and favorable review on the TechCrunch blog in June 2006 got the PR ball rolling. During 2007, Connectbeam collected a number of awards for its smart use of social bookmarking and networking for the enterprise.
The company landed its first large enterprise customer, Honeywell Computers, in March 2007; since then Proctor & Gamble, CSC, and Booz Allen Hamilton have started using Connectbeam functionality to bring social bookmarking and tagging, expertise location, and enterprise social networking capabilities to their employees. Gupta expected another six or seven major customer implementations concurrent with the rollout of Connectbeam version 2.0 in October 2007.
According to Gupta, Connectbeam’s success shows that enterprises have maxed out on efficiency gains to be made from operational systems. "Business intelligence platforms provide a view into the operational side of business, and all the efficiencies have been squeezed out." But with a helping push from globalization, enterprises are now evaluating competitive gains to be made in human capital. Gupta observes, "Companies are asking 'What is the strength of my human capital?' The new competitive lever is the productivity that you can extract from your workers."
By making it easier for enterprise employees to connect with each other and the information that can make them more productive, Connectbeam's application lends a new aura of respectability to social networking and bookmarking in the corporate environment.
Fun Fact: Every other Friday, the Connectbeam team shares an informal lunch at a nearby restaurant—and they always order dessert first.