- Google Reader
- Google Analytics/Feedburner
- TwitterSheep (tool or toy...too close to call!)
I could go on...but my real point is I think I'm a little odd. I explore, I pick up new tools because they are there. I don't think most people are like that and...I think it distracts me a lot of the time from doing 'real' work. It is easy to lose hours lost in a pretty complex web of tools - some of which are integrated and some of which are not, many of which do not add much to my existance other than to feed my unhealthy compulsion with gadgetry.
This is insanity. This is why the vast majority of people use Facebook and call it a day. This is why Google ends up sucking us in because at least our email, feed reader, calendar, and documents are centralized and sharable with the same network of friends.
Open APIs and standards such as OpenID are helping but they do not necessarily ensure centralized control. And because the ability to give the user fine grain control over sharing and privacy - that is extremely easy to use - has not been figured out yet, we aren't really ready for centralized control anyway. But you can get a glimmer of how this world is going to work out there on the consumer web.
This world is fast encroaching on the enterprise. And in someways, because the social network is more defined and there is more centralized control of access and authentication, enterprise IT has a leg up. However, enterprise IT departments need to start thinking about a few things:
- How to integrate a variety of social tools with identity, presence, unified communications, individual workflow, productivity tools, enterprise apps, & accounting/ERP systems.
- How to provide individuals with control over the tools they use, their distribution channels, and settings on their social graph.
- How to give enough 'open' controls to users to allow them to configure and mashup additional tools and widgets they they find useful even though it is not part of the enterprise stack. Because people like me will always be lurking around and 'breaking' things otherwise.
- How to use an SOA architecture in a way that enables individuals to have custom solutions. Imagine everyone in the organization having their own application that seamlessly integrates the productivity, publication, communication, intelligence, and enterprise management features that they need with appropriate information & content in a way that was focused on their responsibilities and goals? All integrated with a social graph and managed through presence such that a person's information stream turned off when they were 'off' and general requests got re-routed to others and then switched back on when they were ready to work - letting through anything that was urgent and for which the individual had no substitute?
- Imagine a resource management solution that was flexible enough to handle emergent activities. An employee gets involved in a project for which they are not directly responsible but their contribution is 'accounted' for and if they end up playing a larger role in the project it automatically shows up as a line item on their time sheet and a notation is automatically made in their HR record so that when their manager sets up a review s/he is aware of the attentional contribution that was made.
'Social' in the enterprise will not be about a destination or a tool - it will be the method by which information is filtered, how collaboration happens, how information is shared/distributed, how contributions are judged, and ultimately it will allow for more fluid and organic careers. Rather than working in one role and always getting 'assigned' to projects, individuals' experience, skills, and interests can determine how they get involved with new projects and how they get compensated/rewarded and moved through the organization. We don't yet have the tools that integrate in a way to make this easily manageable but it's coming.
I've seen the argument to this that goes something like 'people will always need to be assigned to things because there will always be things that no one wants to do in large enterprises'. I agree that there are things that just need to be done - repeatedly - over and over but I disagree that you will never get people to do them. There are a lot of people out there that like operating in their comfort zone on discrete tasks that they can do, spend 8 hours a day doing, feel like they've contributed, and go home satisfied. In this new world that is still an option and organizations will still need to staff such that they have the right mix of people to do all the different things they need done. Those individuals will also likely get customized apps that have a more limited stream and breadth of content, fewer communications channels, and more discrete functionality. And that is OK.
I'm starting to see this world take shape - in fits and starts. What do you think the primary barriers to this are? What are the underlying technologies and how will they need to change - or are they ready today?