On the Modern (Social) Enterprise with John Wookey

Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time talking with John Wookey, one of the most seasoned software industry execs that folks outside of enterprise land will never have heard of. Wookey has an impressive history – formerly at Oracle, then poached by SAP to run their on-demand efforts and most recently snapped up by Marc Benioff to fly the flag at salesforce. Wookey is now heading up the HR part of the business, created since the acquisition and integration of Rypple’s HR/feedback system. While the genesis of our discussion was a desire to talk about Rypple specifically, we spent a lot of time looking at the modern enterprise, and how Rypple as a solution is an indicator of just how much things have changed.

Wookey’s perspective is that organizations are now fill of people that display a trait that he calls “technology fearlessness” – this notion relates to not only how people want to work, but also the expectation that they will have when looking for work. We spent some time reflecting on the differences between his previous employers, SAP and Oracle, and the situation at salesforce. After explaining the vast differences I see in how they engage with analysts and influencers (more on that topic here), Wookey identified with my perspective and suggested that this is a demonstration of a fundamental change in the DNA of the enterprise – from closed and controlled being the defualt setting, to the norm and expectation being that the organization will be open and engaged.

While Wookey would be expected to extol the virtues of his current gig, and accentuate the failings of past employers, my experience as someone deeply engaged with salesforce, and knowing a number of people who work for the company, this high degree of engagement isn’t just a veneer, rather it extend all the way through the organization.

Talking about the Rypple acquisition, Wookey suggested that many commentators characterized the deal as a move by salesforce in HR. He sees it slightly differently, possibly because of the very negative connotations that people have around HR systems, rather he believes that Rypple is another example of salesforce bringing social enterprise directly into how an organization operates. As an employer myself, I’m well aware that more systems designed to help the performance appraisal process are very siloed and tend to be used once a year. Wookey believes that by creating a solution that is engaging, and by integrating that solutions across more of the fabric of applications in use by the company, Rypple is able to build a truly collaborative take on appraisals and performance feedback.

Wookey gave me a demo of the soon to be released integration between Rypple and salesforce, both on the CRM and the Chatter side of the house. While it’s always a little surreal to have a high powered executive wax poetic over awarding people the “Ninja Badge”, I’ll admit that a deeply integrated Rypple is a tool that people are likely to use on an ongoing basis.

In talking about the broader issue of Chatter as a fabric expanding across and throughout an organization, Wookey told me that he believes that Chatter is a platform but it is also a litmus test for people who actively use it. By fostering a culture of interest the organization can encourage networks of common interest and in doing so really become able to take the temperature of the organization – it’s a proxy for an organization-wide assessment.

I expressed concern about Chatter still being primarily a system for knowledge workers. While he accepted that this is currently the case, Wookey likened Chatter (and more broadly social streams generally) as being akin to email. When it was first introduces email was generally taken up by the early adopters. Over time however people began to realize that it was a tool that allowed them to communicate more effectively and to reduce the silos and barriers throughout an organization – Wookey believes that social streams offer the same value and will enjoy a similar uptake over time.

The Rypple integration with Salesforce’s Chatter and CRM platforms is an exciting technological move. More importantly however it signals the delivery of yet another piece of the pie that is the social enterprise. While some would laugh at the entire concept of the social enterprise, I believe that over time the naysayers will be proved wrong.

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