Coffee Who

Deskarma, which originally launched as a knowledge sharing app aimed at professionals but has since pivoted to focus on collaboration in the enterprise, has launched Coffee Who, a single-use web app to get employees talking via face-to-face meetings — over coffee, of course. It taps into a wider trend, says the London and Melbourne-based company, that will increasingly see enterprises supplement their core IT systems and uber-social networking platforms with “disposable apps for specific uses”, much in the same way as apps carve out their niche in the consumer space. That’s the bet anyway.

Coffee Who isn’t about random coffee mornings for staff, but is designed to help match up employees for one-to-one meetings around a key theme or issue — with the wider aim of boosting productivity and staff morale. It does this through a bespoke networking engine, and although the company is keen not to reveal its secret sauce, I’m told it uses a number of data points to set up the initial match, such as employee grade or department. In addition, the Coffee Who administrator can manually “dial-up” certain connections e.g. keep meetings within grades, promote meetings between one particular department and another, or make sure the CEO meets with specific employees.

The Coffee Who engine also gets smarter based on the answers that employees give to a series of questions that they have to answer after each meeting. This includes taking into account things like if someone has declined a meeting, recommended meeting someone else, or if two people are working with the same customers. Responses are then used to determine matches for future meetings, while the built-in feedback loop also enables businesses to capture employee insights into a specified topic area.

In terms of how Coffee Who is being used in practice, Deskarma says that a “top 4″ Australian bank has used the app to get employees to discuss a new go-to-market strategy, rather than letting it lie dormant on a few PowerPoint slides. Another example cited is a large UK accountancy firm who, post-merger, wanted to get teams from both entities meeting to discuss what they’re working on and how they can work together in a practical and immediate way.

As for the broader single-use apps for the enterprise theme that Deskarma is keen to talk up, I’m inclined to think they are on to something. In a statement, co-founder Mark O’Neill makes a compelling case. “Given the fact you can purchase a consumer application in the app store that delivers exceptional functionality for a highly specific task, business users are expecting the same functionality to cost ratio in the enterprise market”, he says.

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