The Need to Connect

By Stan Gibson  |  Posted 2009-04-13 Print this article Print


The Need to Connect

Sabre Holdings, a provider of travel industry technology and services, was feeling the pain of corporate dispersal. In a short time, the company's employees based in the United States plummeted from 85 percent to 45 percent. If that weren't enough, Sabre launched a liberal telecommuting policy. And when employees did come to the office, they were allowed to work at any cubicle.

"All these things made it harder for employees to find each other and find expertise," said Sabre's Erik Johnson. In response, Sabre assigned some of its developers to cook up a social networking platform, which became known as Cubeless. Launched internally as "Sabre Town" in 2007, the networking tools were at first focused on the exchange of travel tips among employees who were frequently on the road. In January, Sabre's Cubeless unit began commercially marketing the underlying technology.

"Consumer applications are not appropriate for business," said Johnson, who is the general manager for Cubeless. "There are very specific things we've done in Cubeless that make it work in the enterprise. It's not a consumer application."

One difference: While social network users are accustomed to having a friends list, there is no such thing in Cubeless. To permit the gathering of groups of friends is to promote the formation of cliques and subgroups where expertise can be trapped and prevented from circulating to those outside the group, said Johnson. "You never know who in an organization has information. With Cubeless, everybody can see everything everyone else is doing," he added.

Cubeless is built on a CRM platform that includes a relevance engine. "The relevance engine is looking at every member's profile. It will determine the most likely people to benefit from information, so everyone doesn't get spammed by e-mail," said Johnson.

When questions asking for expertise are sent out, the right answer comes back within an hour 60 percent of the time, Johnson said. And for every question asked, there is an average of nine answers.

Stan Gibson is Executive Editor of eWEEK. In addition to taking part in Ziff Davis eSeminars and taking charge of special editorial projects, his columns and editorials appear regularly in both the print and online editions of eWEEK. He is chairman of eWEEK's Editorial Board, which received the 1999 Jesse H. Neal Award of the American Business Press. In ten years at eWEEK, Gibson has served eWEEK (formerly PC Week) as Executive Editor/eBiz Strategies, Deputy News Editor, Networking Editor, Assignment Editor and Department Editor. His Webcast program, 'Take Down,' appeared on He has appeared on many radio and television programs including TechTV, CNBC, PBS, WBZ-Boston, WEVD New York and New England Cable News. Gibson has appeared as keynoter at many conferences, including CAMP Expo, Society for Information Management, and the Technology Managers Forum. A 19-year veteran covering information technology, he was previously News Editor at Communications Week and was Software Editor and Systems Editor at Computerworld.

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