Social Networking Reaches Into the Enterprise

Contact Network releases an update to its software for creating a private network of contacts and leads that expands data sources and adds more privacy options.

An early entrant into the enterprise social networking field is unveiling an updated version of its software on Wednesday.

Contact Network Corp., of Boston, is releasing Contact Network 2.5, server software that allows corporations to create their own private social networks where employees can mine each others contacts to find new introductions and sales leads. Enterprise social networks remain relatively new, since most of the attention around social networking has focused on consumer-oriented Web sites such as Friendster.

"Were applying the power of social networking from within the enterprise where people have a natural affinity and incentive to share contacts," said Geoff Hyatt, chairman and co-founder of Contact Network.

The latest release, the companys third since launching the product in September 2002, adds support for more sources of contact data, allows the setting of systemwide privacy settings and includes user-interface enhancements.

Contact Network gathers contact information from e-mails, address books and resumes on corporate computing systems. It already supported data collection from Microsoft Outlook and Exchange as well as Lotus Notes and Domino, and in the latest release adds support for Outlook 2003 and Windows Server 2003.

The software, using a database of 125,000 corporation names, can filter out spam e-mails and general corporate e-mails, such as a credit card statement. Contact Network 2.5 doubles the number of e-mail analysis filters to 30,000.

Also new in Version 2.5 is the ability to gather contact information from custom contact databases built in Microsoft Access and Exchange, Hyatt said. The software already supported pulling data from customer relationship management systems, specifically from Siebel and Microsoft CRM.

Contact Network ensures privacy by allowing users the choice of whether to participate—about 99 percent do opt in—as well as the ability to block specific contacts in their address books, Hyatt said. Also, no employee can gain access to a contact without first going through the employee who knows the contact.

In the new version, administrators also are able to set some universal privacy settings by defining the maximum level of contact sharing allowed.

"We err on the side of privacy, and theres no reason to push the envelope unnecessarily," Hyatt said.

Contact Network also has made improvements to the contact search interface itself. Users now can view corporate structure information by seeing how an affiliate company or subsidiary relates to a parent company

Pricing for Contact Network 2.5 is based on a monthly subscription depending on the size of an enterprise. Typical deployments range between $4,000 and $20,000 a month, Hyatt said.