E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Mills Spikes Consumer Social Software for IBM – Can Enterprises Afford Ignoring the Consumer Market?

(Previously, on elsua – The Knowledge Management Blog at ITtoolbox)

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Last week there was quite an interesting news article shared over at Internetnews.com that I thought quite a few people over here would be interested in, since it touches base on the adoption of social computing within the Enterprise. The article itself, by Clint Boulton, is titled Mills Spikes Consumer Social Software for IBM and in it you would be able to read how IBM has been preparing the way to help hasten the adoption of social software within the enterprise by putting together a number of different offerings in place, some of which would see the light some time during the course of this year.

However, what I found quite interesting from the news article itself though was actually Steve Mills’ (Senior vice president and group executive for IBM’s Software group) extended commentary on the fact that the focus for all of those different social networking offerings is not going to be the consumer market, but the enterprise world itself. Pretty good, you may think, right? What we were all asking for, don’t you think? A validation of social computing within the corporate world so that everyone would know what they can expect  from such emerging technologies in the business world.

Well, I am not so sure, I must admit. Certainly, we should not go ahead and confuse the consumer market with the enterprise market, but at the same time, we should not neglect, nor ignore, the fact that most of the innovation that is taking place nowadays within the social computing space is actually coming up from the Web 2.0 consumer market. So to any effect, ignoring that rampant innovation takes place in that space is probably not the best move, I can imagine, specially, since that is an environment where most of the action is taking place at the moment, whether we like it or not.

Yes, there have been lots of discussions about the potential issues social software is bringing into the corporate world, like the lack of security, of governance, and so forth. Yet, despite everything that has been said, the revolution that is taking place within the consumer market has not precedent in the business world and will certainly mark the before and after in the Internet age. So coming up with social networking offerings that ignore what is happening in the consumer market is probably not the best of approaches. We would be missing a huge opportunity in here, to be honest. Get the best of the innovation that is taking place in the Web 2.0 world and then try to adapt it to the Enterprise world. That is where I feel the main challenge is and what will distinguish those companies that do get it, and therefore will survive the race, from those who tried to jump into the bandwagon, but that unfortunately, their jump was far too short.

Frank Gen, IDC analyst, puts it quite nicely as well in the following quotes:

"[…] (Frank) questioned whether or not IBM can play that role successfully in the long term if they are not also successfully competing around those technologies in the consumer market, which is where the innovation and adoption is rampant" (Emphasis mine) […]

"Because the companies, whether it’s Google, Yahoo or the countless number of Web 2.0 companies that are consumer oriented, are not just going to stay in that consumer market."

That is just so accurate! All of those different companies that have been experimenting in the consumer market about how they can leverage social computing for their own offerings are soon going to be ready for the next stage, which is bringing together all that innovation into the enterprise world and continue to shake the ground further of how interactions are taking place. Their main key advantage at this stage? Well, the fact that they already have got a massive, and successful, critical mass of knowledge workers making use of those tools in their own private time. And now they would probably want to make use of them extensively at their own workplaces. This is something that most large enterprises out there will have to struggle with, and big time! Convincing their knowledge workers that what they have to offer to them, and their customers, is better than whatever they have been using all along for many months / years is going to be a hard sell, a very tough one, indeed, so ignoring the consumer market at this point in time and in the near future may not be the right approach to things.

Time will tell, but something that has been going in my mind for a while is that same Web 2.0 in the consumer market is what got us to the stage where we are now, so instead of just fighting against it I think it would be a whole lot more productive to actually embrace it and take it on to the next level. As I said, to me, that is where the main challenge is, and what will help differentiate those companies that will survive the next wave of Internet interactions and those which will fail along the way. So you may start wondering where you are with your own company and see how you would want to continue with the adoption of those social networking offerings behind the firewall, because after all you are the one in control of those different interactions. Later on, it may no longer be the case…

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  1. Hello folks! Thanks much for the feedback comments and for dropping by! Appreciated all the great input and the trackback.

    Mike, I certainly agree with your point that in the current flow of information and how knowledge gets spread around nowadays issues like security, identity, compliance and so on are not just good enough. Over time the barriers between work and private life are slowly disappearing and rearranging the way we have traditionally known the workplace. And as such, applications that at the time were rather strict in how the knowledge and information would flow would go need to open up now in order to accommodate the new needs and requirements from that particular workforce that wants to combine both what they may be doing outside of work with what they are doing at work. Fascinating topic, indeed!

    I thought I would go ahead and create another follow up weblog entry on the subject commenting as well not only on some of what James has mentioned already in the article he has created, since I think it is worth while enough to expand further on another article, but also on what you have mentioned in your own weblog. Thus stay tuned for some more to come!

    Thanks again for the feedback !

  2. Hi Ed! Thanks a lot for letting me know about this and for the kind feedback! No, I haven’t shared it internally at the original time I posted it over here, but I surely have done it now in my internal blog and will be spreading the word around as well. Appreciated the comments!

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