Nisan 18 2010 Pazar
Gartner lately announced that by 2014, 20% of business users will use social networking services for inter-personal communication instead of e-mail. They also suggest companies to develop a long term strategy on social networking. There are no solid financial promises on social software yet. But the situation is highly similar to a couple of decades before, when the first generation collaboration systems were crawling around. Companies like Gartner and Forrester promoted the concept into CIO's mind. Just like the other business trends before.
However, the business customers' point of view is very confused nowadays. Because the concept of "social networking" scares us due to the bizard image of 'facebook with corporate logo'. Facebook means waste of time, gaming, viruses and losing privacy. These mappings disturbs bosses, managers and even regular employees.
Well, the question is that: will our business manner (or etiquette) fit into the new way of collaboration?
I think the first mistake is hidden in the former sentence. Because business manners or etiquette is a volatile concept like language. We sense it very stable but it changes real fast. It will be a boring example but a decade ago, providing e-mail accounts or internet access to employees was perceived as 'putting a newspaper every desk', where E-mail was referred to casual conversation with friends and family, internet access was wasting valuable time by browsing around funny web pages.
Actually, business manners are the set of written and unwritten rules of conducting business, inside and outside company. They are whole set of conventions and methodologies collectively built by employees, managers and bosses as well. As people change, technology allows new scopes and new pragmatic tools and methods emerge, the corporate culture would be shifted in a good way or bad way
The second point is that we should never underestimate how companies (bosses, managers and employees) are so pragmatic and utility-oriented about their businesses. For example, if wikis (by the way, I like the definition of wikis: collaborative content generation :) ) are utilized by quality assurance departments, they would be one of the most important applications of a company regardless of industry. Because it maps a solution to a very basic need of editing and versioning a document (like a rulebook document) with two or more (a)synchronous editors in a style that neither word processor can do. I have heard that security guys of a customer is using blog database to journal nightly reports. It makes sense actually, because there are multiple authors, daily documents and there is no need to provide e-mail account for each security staff. Or think of an employee chatting another one using Sametime. What is the point to use chat instead of phone or e-mail? Phone has a reachability problem. Additionally, when using phone, neither party can do multitasking while holding the handset on his shoulder uncomfortably. When using e-mail, you will never know if it has been read, in progress or completed. Instant messages are perceived more polite as well, since you can ask 'how are you' and get an answer 'fine' instantly.
As a last point, we will refer to an theoretical concept of Institutionalism. Basically it is a social/economic theory that studies why organizations converge into an isomorphic structure in time. For example all car-manufacturers use ERP, banks buy CRM, freight companies get ISO 900XX quality certificates, etc. It is reasonable of course, because each one of these companies gets some advantage by these methodologies. But if we trace the chronical progression, we'll see that these strategical decisions have been taken in a narrow time period, synchronously and without waiting to see if it is effective, useful or profitable. There are enough empiric researchs that prove the existence of such a behaviour. Even though arguments with little details still exist, the concept is still widely accepted by organization theorists.
Institutionalism should not be underestimated either. Today, HSBC is implementing Lotus Connections which means that more banking companies will invest into social software. This 'replication' will be contaminated to other financial industries, insurance companies, service organizations and manufacturing companies evantually. Just like 'business intelligence', 'ERP' or '6-sigma'...
The progression will be like that:
1. Big corporations (early-adaptors) will adapt social software with their risk-taking capabilities due to their large financial resources, powers to be organized and bulk HR budgets.
2.Their competitors in the same industry, other companies with close relations or ones facing with the same problems will catch the new trend with success stories. The second wave implementations will be integrated.
3. In the mean time, more brands will develop cheaper products in the market and prices will decrease. Decision-makers transferred from big corporations into smaller ones will adapt lower-budgeted implementations.
4. Companies still not using social software will be marked as 'dinosaurs' and dispised. Even they suspect the new concept, they will be developing small fragments of social software inside their business environment.
5. 10 years later, some IT geeks will be chatting at Starbucks: 'once upon a time, our managers were laughing when we wanted to buy a social software'.
My next topic will be on social software components.