Thursday, 4 September 2008

Integrating Web2.0 Solutions in the Corporate Env. A Challenge for Innovation!

I was in a very interesting discussion with a colleague responsible for the IT Innovation process in our company today.

The company, where I work, has for awhile now had a big focus on bringing Web 2.0 type solutions into the corporate infrastructure via the innovation process . Some current projects include looking at integrating internal social networking (ala facebook, dopplr and similar) or microblogging (ala twitter). There are many reasons behind these ideas and a lot them have to do with attracting young blood into the company & keeping them interested.

There are however a number of fundamental issues behind this logic, a primary one being that these types of solutions can be easily adopted into the user's daily business workflow to bring him/her added benefit and ease to complete their professional goals. Even more difficult in a company like ours which is not an IT focused company. Another important issue being that a majority of new recruits are indeed heavily involved in the use of such solutions! Let's face it there have not been that many studies that indicate that a majority of university graduates expect to see such tools in the work place. Yes! They want access to the solutions but at a more global and personal level - a primary goal being to be able to keep in touch with friends and acquaintances as well as continue to exist in the webosphere as they did before.

There is in fact a macro versus micro distinction that needs to be made in this domain. An internal corporate social network or microblog actually only serves a microcosm of users that already have the primary means to achieve essentially the same things with e-mail, corporate directory & IM. In a more than typical internal business environment you already communicate and share information with your colleagues and don't necessarily need to push or publish information via a web based application. Think about it what additional information is a social network going to allow you to serve more than a corporate directory or sending e-mails. One theory is to stay that in a large 50k employee company, it will allow you to discover or facilitate contacting people when you travel to a different site. I question this! As how is different than looking up the colleagues you need to visit or are based in the site you are visiting? Will a social network really bring additional benefit in that sense?

For me a lot of these Internet level solutions function and provide benefit as they permit disperse people the ability to keep in touch without requiring a formal linkage (such as sharing of e-mail or IM) as well as bringing a platform to meet new people outside of your usual domain of influence. I think the whole point here is the ability or drive to expand you domain of influence however in your work environment you already basically have the recognition and access to your domain of influence based on your experience and responsibilities. Microblogging is another good example of this and can be seen as the summum of this ability by allowing you to broadcast updates and thoughts to all your followers in a quick and dirty interface. But how does this fit into a typical business day workflow.

I am in IT and for the moment, I don't quite see it. To be honest, I already have trouble juggling my job responsibilities and keeping my Internet presence up-to-date. And this is for me and more importantly and as mentionned before the key factor: how do you fit these tools into your daily job workflow. Honestly, I don't have the answer and I still fail to see the business benefit. I am open to suggestion and hope this post will open the floor for discussion...