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UPDATED: How Does "Social Technology" Affect Business?

I was going to leave myself a comment, but instead opted to update this post (updated 5/21/08)

The panel went really well - but I changed some of the content as I was taking the train down to the city from Bridgeport. I ended up going with 4 broad trends or factors that are driving the use of social networking and tools within the enterprise.

1. Consumers technology is invading the enterprise
2. Employees have an insatiable need for data, self-service tools and the ability to collaborate
3. Technology is fundamentally driving innovation
4. Generational shift

I think it went well and I hope to re-post video once it is available.

Here's the original, unchanged post:

As I mentioned in my previous post and on Twitter, I'm doing a panel this Friday at NYU. I'm on what looks to be a terrific panel titled "The Digital Future: What Social Networking and Marketing Tools Mean for Businesses and Entrepreneurs."

I'm guessing that my take will be slightly different than my fellow panelists, I'm assuming they'll be talking about the consumer space being from big agencies, and MTV. My focus is, and latest interest is looking at how social networking and marketing tools mean inside the firewall. It's a different spin, and one ripe for a lot more exploration and attention.

I've spent some of my day today going over what I'm going to say regarding this topic and have come up with some key points. Let me know what you think.

1. Consumers and web technologies are quickly and powerfully spilling over into the enterprise
Stories in Business Week about Apple's invasion of the enterprise is just the latest, but think back for a moment the last time that you took a new job. I always have that scary moment when I think, "oh man, I hope they aren't blocking IM, Youtube or Facebook." Not because I want to fool around, but because those tools and sites are critical to keeping me connected to my network and to the information I need as a marketer to get my work done. The iPhone is just the latest consumer technology to come knocking on IT and the enterprise door, and this time, consumer adoption is all but forcing a reaction from IT departments. Businesses can no longer afford not to let these tools and technologies inside - if for nothing else, employee mutiny (and illicit workarounds and/or hacks).

2. Insatiable need to access data, self-service and to collaborate with each other
Business Intelligence, dashboards and metrics; can you imagine running a business without these? It wasn't so long ago that deploying these types of system were either too complex or too expensive. Not so any more and not because it's suddenly cheap to develop a BI solution. Employees and their managers have an unquenchable thirst for data these days and it's a trend that is most certainly accelerating.

Meanwhile, self-service is a hallmark of the "new web" and is something that is easy to take for granted. It was just 6 years ago when I had my first non-profit job and was told there was no way in the world that we'd allow donors to manage their own data on a web site. How quaint!

As for collaboration, I read today that Wetpaint is growing like mad and has something like 900,000 wikis. That's a lot of "wiki" going on in a world where I'm guessing not so many of your managers or executives have ever even heard that term.

3. Technology is driving innovation
How dare a marketing guy make such a statement! At least I put it at #3! Seriously though, this one is simple and easy to see. Advances in technology combined with ever more savvy users is driving innovation at astounding rates. This applies across the board in both the enterprise and consumer spaces and is just amazing. The coolest thing you saw 6 months ago is old hat by now.

4. Within the enterprise, social technology is forcing enterprise IT departments to deploy ever more flexible, scalable and complex systems that put people at the core, not systems
As I was thinking about this panel and talking with friends about this issue it struck me that "social networking" or the broader "social systems" within an enterprise isn't what has changed. Organizations have always had complex social systems but have never had tools and technologies that have laid them bare for all to see. This exposure is forcing IT and enterprises to think about these previously hidden hierarchies and relationships. What consumer applications like Myspace, Facebook and Twitter have done is to put people at the core and circle everything else around them. I remember a time not so long ago when IT systems were about data and processes and completely ignored users, profiles, collaboration and reputation.

That's what I have for now... thoughts?


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