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‘Social networking’ that improves performance

When Ben Ridler whips out his iPhone for a bit of social networking, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s goofing off.

That’s because he has his company’s Business Execution Software (BES) application installed on the handheld – and what that software does is provide immediate insight into business performance.

While not an entirely new category of software, as SuccessFactors arguably initiated the market back in 2001 (Ridler says that company only started using the term BES ‘a few years ago), BES software is not quite mainstream either.

Most people will scratch their heads when confronted with the term itself; likely shortly followed by the obvious question: What is BES?

Ridler, CEO of, provides the answer: “Our software helps companies to achieve their strategic goals more effectively. It does so by providing a platform which makes it possible to assess the performance of individual members of a team against tasks and accomplishments which are set for them.”

At a glance, says Ridler, colour coded blocks show who is performing – and who is not.

Still confused? Likely, yes. A member of’s online chat personnel responded to the question ‘can you describe what BES is?’ as follows: “The description is available on the homepage.” The homepage reveals that BES is ‘A simple solution to achieve better results – guaranteed! Create a winning strategy; Set and track strategic objectives; Hold people accountable.’

Still not clear?

Indeed, Ridler and the company’s web page make a concession that understanding what BES does (and how) is best done through a demonstration, which is quite happy to facilitate for interested types. “The success of our software depends on it being driven from the top. This is something that CEOs need to buy into,” he notes.

A better way of getting to grips with BES is to think of it as a social media platform for your company (but note that it is not precisely the same, by any means). It allows the sort of closeness and ‘one to many’ communication with which we associate platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Where it differs is that the exchanges on BES are centred around company goals and tasks, instead of the social and leisure activities for which we usually turn to the likes of Facebook.

For example, on the rather auspicious occasion of registering its iPhone app on the iStore, a goal is set on the company’s BES platform. There are various contributors who have some input and responsibilities towards achieving this goal; that’s all broken down into tasks assigned to individuals.

By simply accessing the ‘Register our app on the iStore’ task, it is possible (on Ridler’s iPhone, as he demonstrated over a coffee) to gain an overall view of the process, and then to drill into who has done what and when. If any team members aren’t performing, a rather intimidating red light shows up.

Indeed, says Ridler, “The effect of performance visibility is so strong that any team members who consistently underperform are very likely to either get on to their work, or of their own accord leave the organisation.” It’s a phenomenon which he says has emerged quite consistently among the clients using’s software.

Where BES really shines is with distributed organisations, since it facilitates a level of interaction and ‘closeness’, for want of a better word, which is otherwise absent in companies which have offices and employees scattered before the four winds. As Ridler demonstrates, his own staff have set up personal profiles, replete with alter-ego avatars and names, and plenty of activity to demonstrate how the international operations in the USA and Canada interact routinely with colleagues in New Zealand.

But is the market buying into it? The value of Ridler’s company is estimated at $10-million, according to its public relations representative. SuccessFactors, the other BES company mentioned in this article, was purchased by ERP giant SAP for the not-so-trivial sum of US$3.4-billion (2011).

Which means it might just be worth scheduling one of those demos.