The subject matter of business uses of the social web and related technologies has been gaining ground throughout traditional as well as new media. As usual there are opposing viewpoints as the the potential impact of the medium on business processes, IT Infrastructures and traditional corporate models as well as sacred budgets for use of technology.
When we step back a little the landscape of opinion becomes clearer. What we’re observing, in all its noise, is the ancient paradox of what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. The irresistible force in this case is the explosive growth of the social networking medium and the never ending introduction of technological innovation and human creativity in adaptation.
The immovable object is cultural paradigms that have accumulated over several years of managing corporate IT models that have been fueled by old technologies and a generation of managers who have personal stakes in the old models.
The Old Models
Historically corporate leadership has been constantly faced with the increased demand for technological spending. Whether it be software or hardware upgrades, custom database builds, CRM, ECM, Financial or Sales & Marketing Systems and infrastructure enhancements the list of request to meet all the needs of the corporate eco-system of interest has been a nightmare for most, if not all CEO’s. Meeting all the needs of different silo’s of functions has been the historical challenge of CTO’s, CIO’s and a host of suppliers waiting to sell the next new enhancement to old systems. The evolution of technology has sparked billions in collective spending all with the promise of productivity or the threat of not having the latest and greatest technology to keep up with competition.
This model has fueled kingdoms of power and created paradigms of thinking within corporate cultures globally.
The New Models
The landscape of technological models for businesses is facing a major transformational wave just beginning to swell. The social web has sparked an industry made up of entrepreneurs whose collective efforts have created a new eco-system of technology fueled by collaborative efforts and consumer appeal for “connectivity and innovation“. The new eco-system is built on platforms that for the most part are free and enhanced functionality has been driven by application developers providing increased functional value, again for free.
The term “free” is the paradox of the moment that clashes with the paradox of the past. The free models are driven by the hits economy. Take Google’s strategy. They enter the market with a new technology without knowing how it will create economic value rather they know that once it creates traffic they’ll figure out how to economize its value. But you say corporate IT models and spending isn’t based on hits it is based on a return on investment driven my measures of gain. Your absolutely right today, but bear with me.
The analyst would tell us that consumer oriented technology is different than enterprise technology. Enterprises need to have proprietary designs for use of technology to serve enterprise interest for productivity, customer interest, regulatory reporting and financial data of confidentiality to name a few. Yes, yes and yes again. However when one looks at purpose vs. specific functionality and features we may find lots of common ground in the backbone of technology that currently fuels the social web and could be optimized for business purposes at significantly less cost. Ok we can already hear the response for the IT folks in corporate before we have the opportunity to demonstrate a case study. “This is crazy and you don’t understand the complexity of technological designs and issues for a corporation”.
To that we would say “craziness is the edge of creativity which is the envelope of innovation“. Consider the following announcement this week from Forrester Research: Facebook & Alfresco Help Signal The End Of Today’s Definition Of ECM
Alfresco recently announced integration with Facebook. The news works well for Alfresco, which continues to demonstrate a bit more edge thinking in the world of ECM than their commercial counterparts IBM, EMC, Oracle, and Open Text. Facebook’s not making a big deal out of it, which should be expected considering their exploring what it means to deliver applications to businesses at this point.
“Last October we published research entitled ‘The Top Five Technology Trends That Affect Your Enterprise Content Management Strategy.’ One of the most important trends we singled out was a trend we refer to as Tech Populism – or how the technology we use at work continues to find its way into the home (Outlook calendars and Microsoft Office for example), and, more interestingly, the technology we use at home – or our own personal technology – continues to find its way into work (Facebook, LinkedIn, and iPods for example).”
“Many of us will increasingly use online social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn to help us get our jobs done. And sometimes getting our jobs done will require we work with, collaborate on, and access content (e.g. documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and rich media assets). Alfresco’s tapping into this trend, hoping to beat some of their commercial ECM peers to the punch, and be in front of the early enterprise adopters of Facebook that need a little ECM help.”
“But Facebook isn’t going to be your answer for all things ECM. Instead, you should look at this as a sign of things to come. Content, and content repositories for that matter, will be wherever people work. And your organization’s not going to be able to stop every employee from using online social networks like Facebook if it helps the employee get their job done. But how should you think about this trend?”
Stay tuned and we will be following with specific examples of the theories above and the realities of future impacts social computing will bring to businesses. Just think for a moment if Facebook’s platform was leased as “white label” for corporations, unleashed their application developers to those businesses that want to white label the platform and let your creative mind wonder.
Do you think Google’s OpenSocial isn’t aiming at businesses? Step back and think about the purpose of technology for businesses and compare it to the purposes that social computing technologies are fulfilling.
Come back and read our series of post forthcoming and you’ll see what we have to say on these issues.
What say you?