For many companies, standalone email is no longer adequate for workplace communication. As workers grow accustomed to using more real-time social tools in their personal lives, companies are turning to technology providers like Saba to help transform the workplace. Saba is a self-described "provider of people systems," meaning they offer products for collaboration, management and learning, as well as social networking software. The company says it will officially announce the newest version of its social media tool, Saba Live, now with connectors to Microsoft SharePoint and Outlook later this week. Saba Live was released in June of this year but the tools themselves will not be available until 2011.
"Imagine today if you came into work and someone said, ‘The only tool we're going to give you is a telephone.' That wouldn't work anymore," says Milind Pansare, Saba's senior director of product marketing. "You have to assume there's going to be a desktop [computer], you assume there's going to be email, and now you assume there are going be better ways to communicate, including social ways of communication."
In the interest of including email and other workplace staples into the social environment with this latest release, Saba aims to make the transition to an online social community even easier by now allowing communication and document sharing through connecting Saba Live directly with Outlook and SharePoint.
According to Pansare, the most important thing about social networking is a user's profile. On Saba Live, each user creates a profile, which includes official credentials as well as interests and abilities-such as languages spoken, hobbies, and other specializations. Communities can then be created to be either internal or external - that is consisting of only employees, or incorporating the company's customers as well. These online communities help those within them connect with each other and find experts that they are looking for. For example, if you need to find a person who speaks a certain language, with a certain specialization, in a certain location, you find someone who fits those criteria by searching within your Saba Live community.
"People are getting conditioned to these new ways of communication," Pansare says. As a result, Saba Live also offers users familiar functionality like the ability to post on each other's walls, video sharing, web conferencing, and collaboration on projects, among other things. Now, if you are already connected to Microsoft Outlook and email someone within your Saba Live community, a new panel will come up in Outlook with that user's Saba Live details. You can see the activities that person has participated in on Saba Live, the documents you've shared with that person, and even the person's picture.
The new connectors to SharePoint allow documents to coexist on both Saba Live and SharePoint. Content can be shared across systems. Documents can be saved from one into the other and updated in both simultaneously, and searches can be conducted yielding content in both Saba Live and SharePoint.
Pansare explains that the future of constantly changing technologies will mean a changing Saba Live as well. As new technologies emerge, "we continue to be inspired by the things we are seeing," he says. Ultimately, it is all about efficiency. Pansare says, "What we want to do is make sure people can get work done more effectively."