Thursday, December 20, 2007

Eckman on Social Computing in the Enterprise

I just turned in the last of a rapid-fire succession of project deliverables and was catching up on reading John Eckman's great blog Open Parenthesis. John has a poignant series of posts about social computing in the Enterprise that I found myself silently nodding my head in agreement as I read. I share John's enthusiasm for the promise of DiSo project and hope that one day one will be able to share a profile across communities on different social networking sites. What pushed me over the inertia to write my own post was John's entry called Like Facebook, but without all the fun (I love the title. Reminds me of the Wordie tag line "Like Flickr, but without the photos). John is also critical of the notion that you can recreate a social network within a company and have it get all the personal interest of Facebook.

In his post "Is Facebook in the Enterprise an Oxymoron?" Tony Byrne comes to a similar conclusion: "But when does Facebook-behind-the-firewall stop being Facebook? I think the minute a central authority gets behind it -- and instinctively mandates some available MOBIG (Microsoft/Oracle/BEA/IBM/Google) software because it happened to be familiar or free -- is the minute the system will lose its appeal to rank-and-file employees."

I am looking forward to seeing more creative ways to build on top of existing social networking platforms and personal tools like "My Yahoo" style consumer portals. OpenSocial looks interesting. So does the NetVibes API. What might be just as interesting is a potential shift in how large enterprise look at enterprise software for the knowledge worker and how they deploy and manage it. There used to be a larger focus on infrastructure and large projects to deploy massive enterprise software applications. What if enterprises start piggy-backing off of public infrastructure and change their focus to building high-impact tactical components and applications? It does seem risky to invest development dollars on a trendy service that you have no control over. But it can't be riskier than all those enterprise portal projects that wound up failing (note: CMS Watch says that companies are getting better at deploying portals.)

I would love to hear of stories of companies that are building applications for themselves on consumer oriented infrastructure. The CMS Watch network is using Facebook to collaborate and coordinate and I have to say that I am underwhelmed. The old list serve worked much better than the Facebook group discussion boards because Facebook doesn't send you an email when someone adds a new topic or posts a reply to someone else's topic (if there is a setting to enable this, please let me know!). It is kind of fun to see people's pictures and what movie stars they resemble though! Maybe the recipe is to allow the public networks to bring the fun and interest and context that makes you want come back and add applications that are useful for people to do their jobs.