Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Coming of Social Middleware

Here is a geeky admission: I often yearn for the golden age of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

It was the mid-1990s and the specter of Y2K has just begun to loom. Corporations with their unwieldy and outdated computer networks and data centers were faced with a difficult choice – either hire an integration company to troll through and update millions of lines of software code to ensure Y2K compliance, or buy and implement sparkling new, state-of-the art software to more efficiently run the business.

Either way it was going to cost millions of dollars.

Understandably, a majority of organizations chose to modernize their systems, and ERP vendors like SAP, Oracle, JD Edwards, Peoplesoft and Baan reaped the reward.

The grand days of ERP also spawned a renaissance for middleware vendors like webMethods, TIBCO and SAGA Software (a former Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) client). There was a requirement to connect a company’s fancy new ERP with legacy databases and other information sources. Middleware gave these disparate systems the ability to communicate.

Alas, the passing of Y2K, and the natural maturation and consolidation of the ERP market led to vendors like SAP and Oracle offering more comprehensive, integrated solutions. Although still relevant, the go-go days of middleware appeared to exist only in fond memories.

That was until Strategic client Kristin Bockius suggested I check out an Austin, Texas based start-up called SocialWare. They look to be putting the cool back into middleware by allowing a company to more efficiently connect their enterprise systems with Web 2.0 platforms and online communities, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

There is clearly a need for this more secure integration that will allow companies to comfortably green light their employees’ engagement in social networks. And I love SocialWare’s use of the “middleware” term as it defines their value proposition.

Is SocialWare’s technology platform mature and proven? Will the company be able to execute?

These questions are unanswered, yet I’m certainly keeping my eyes on the gang in Austin that is pushing social middleware.

Full disclosure: Strategic client Kristin Bockius' brother is a member of SocialWare's management team.


Randy said...

Interesting. We have been trying to place in a social CRM context and never really considered that it might be CRM middle ware. We really sit between CRM and social media enabling CRM - Middle Ware. Thank you. Randy

Berg en Vreede said...

Nice to see social middleware trending. There is a big need for this. We have a tech startup providing a social middleware platform for churches and non-profits that is starting to take off.
Nice write up!