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    Entries in social computing (14)


    Preparing for the Post-PC era

    Last week the analyst and advisory services firm Gartner released a new set of market estimates and predictions about the market for 'personal' computing devices - traditional PCs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. The Gartner predictions are summarized in the chart below:

    The main takeaway, at least for some analysts, from these market estimates? The PC market is dying.

    Their argument being as PC shipments begin to decline, while smartphone and tablet sales continue to rise, then the simultaneous impact of software and application developers focusing their efforts on the growing market segments, combined with individual (and possibly business), lengthening the typical useful life cycle of the PC (essentially making do with an old PC or laptop while making sure you have the latest Samsung Galaxy or iPad), will combine to further erode the PC as the primary personal computing platform. 

    I think both these arguments make perfect sense, particularly when thinking about how people are engaging with technology for their personal needs. The skeptic would say that for work, for 'real' work that usually, (but not always), involves content creation or heavy, data-intensive tasks, that the PC is not going anywhere - not for a long while anyway. That is a pretty compelling, and I think still somewhat valid, defense for the PC. Tablets and smartphones and even 'dumb' Chromebook-type devices are simply not yet up to the heavy tasks that workplaces demand.  We may be moving to the Post-PC era, but we, at least in the workplace, are not there yet.

    But not being there should not be an excuse for organizations or software providers to think that one day and probably sooner that we all will be ready for, the PC will no longer be the primary or dominant device via employees engage with enterprise technology, creat content, and engage with each other. If you don't yet buy-in, check out this excerpt from a recent interview with Aaron Levie founder of Box, a consumer-to-enterprise cloud storage and collaboration company that continues to make major waves in more and more large, global organizations.

    "I think like everybody else we recognize the opportunity that mobile has created. This idea that there's going to be, I don't know what the latest figure is, over a billion smart devices, smart phones, probably two billion. But mobile devices are outselling PCs three to one, two to one, and at a rate that is really unstoppable at this point. We think that fundamentally changes how businesses are going to work. Not just the fact that now I have another device that I can access information from, but more importantly, this becomes a primary computing device for a whole new set of job functions.

    We see that as kind of our PC moment. If you think about the transition from the mainframe to the PC, how that created new leadership opportunities for Microsoft and Intel and others, we see the same kind of transition from PC to post-PC as creating those kind of leadership gaps and opportunities. We happen to be a company that was born right at the center of this shift. On day one of our company we thought about the mobile implications of having access to your information from anywhere. We were rapidly orienting and organizing our company around that effort. You're going to see a lot of stuff from our platform, from our hiring, from where we're building out our teams that is completely oriented around the mobile enterprise, the post-PC enterprise, and we really want Box to be the hub for content and for information in this new post-PC enterprise."

    The money line from that long quote from Levie is this:  On day one of our company we thought about the mobile implications of having access to your information from anywhere. 

    Levie and Box were and are thinking about this market shift from a vendor's perspective - they make and market solutions for content management and collaboration. But the sentiment - preparing for a workplace where everyone demands access to their information, (used in a really broad sense), from any device and at any time - well that is not just a vendor problem, it's your problem too.

    Take the Gartner data, take the comments from a guy like Levie for what they're worth, but if you really need to know what's going on in your organization just ask some people, or better yet, just observe them when they are not chained to a PC. Chances are they are still trying to work on whatever devices they have or that you've provided. The question really is are you doing enough to think about and focus the way that Levie describes - are you actively thinking about how to provide access to the information your employees need, when, where, and how they want it?

    The post-mainframe era was a b$%^& if you were on the wrong side of the divide. The Post-PC era figures to be the same.


    'And we're going to track one of our employees'

    There you go, happily wandering around the internet and the social networks. A Twitter conversation here. A Foursquare check-in there. Maybe a quick cruise up and down your Facebook feed dropping a few 'likes', and uploading a cool snap from your weekend trip to winery or petting zoo or ballpark. It's fun, it's social, and in 2013 for many of us, updating, connecting, and participating in social networking and contributing to the colossal Big Data set that is the social graph is an essential part of our lives.

    Sure, every so often we get a little tired of it all, maybe we take a Facebook vacation, or go on a little Twitter hiatus. We forget to update our LinkedIn profile for a while, (at least until we decide we need a new job), or decide 'checking-in' every time you get a coffee on the way to work is kind of silly. But eventually we come back. Too much of our lives, personal for sure, and increasingly professional, are wound up in the social web. 

    That essential nature of social networking that not only compels us to Instagram our pancakes before digging in or fighting over meaningless 'Mayorships' at your kid's preschool also leads to a kind of softening in our views of privacy and security. Through a combination of often confusing and shifting privacy policies, and a pessimistic, (probably realistic), rationalization that no matter what 'privacy' settings or controls one chooses, that their data, once submitted to the great big social graph in the cloud, will eventually become if not public, at least privy to people and programs for which it was never intended.

    We sort of get it, we get the tradeoff, we (mostly) accept it as a 'cost of doing business' where the value we derive, (fun, connections, business opportunities), is greater than or at least equal to the darker side of social - loss of privacy, more and more ads, the occasional backlash in the form of 'If your not the customer, you're the product' bitterness. Ok, that last one is mostly my pet peeve.

    But despite all that, and our real understanding that nothing on the internet is ever truly private, it is enlightening to catch a glimpse, a snippet, of just what is happening with all that social exhaust we leave as we traverse the social networks and live our lives online.

    The UK's Guardian site managed to get a hold of a pretty amazing video created in 2010 by the defense and security firm Raytheon, that features a short product demonstration of a tool called RIOT (Rapid Information Overlay Technology). The Raytheon system was designed to exhibit just how simple and powerful social network data can be for the purposes of identification, tracking, and predicting one's movements. Take a look at the video below, (RSS and email subscribers please click through)

    Pretty incredible, right? And remember this video of RIOT is from 2010. No doubt development has continued on RIOT, and no doubt that Raytheon was or is not the only company interested in this sort of thing.

    But a great reminder nonetheless. 

    We KNOW the data that we publish, push, and post on social media is never private.

    But we don't usually get to SEE a reminder of what that actually means.

    What's your take? Creeped out by RIOT? Or simply do you chalk it up as the way the world works today?

    Happy Thursday.

    Aside - Did you notice the Raytheon demo guy from the video looks just like comedian Louis C.K.? Weird.


    Maybe engagement isn't the right social outcome after all

    If you have spent much time at all the last few years researching, attending events and presentations, or consulting with experts, (term used very loosely), on how to incorporate social tools and social media into organizational communication, talent management, or recruiting strategy, if nothing else you would have come away with the firm belief that 'engagement' and 'conversation' have to be among your prime objectives and desired outcomes. No customer or potential candidate wants to engage online, the theory goes, be it on a Facebook page, a LinkedIn group, or with a Twitter feed with a faceless organization, a logo, and a stream of automatically generated updates, or worst of all, an RSS feed of job ads pushed to the social outposts from your corporate Applicant Tracking System. Jasper Johns - #6

    Conventional social media and social networking advice would tell the organization to simply not bother with social as a channel if all they really plan to do is constantly broadcast, advertise, and push content. You're not ready for social, the experts would say. You have to engage, converse, be a part of a consistent give and take with the audience in order for your efforts to pay off in the long run.  And that seems like really solid, sound advice. Consumers and prospects don't want another stream of low-value add corporate messaging and propaganda.

    Yep, great advice on how engagement and conversation is what matters.

    But what if that advice, if not being completely wrong, is at least not as hard and fast as is generally accepted in the emerging social recruiting space?

    A recent ethnographic study on the role of technology and social platforms in the real world from the digital media consultancy Razorfish raises some interesting questions about how average and casual technology users typically consume with and engage with digital content. Long story short, the Razorfish study showed that rather than seeking to actively participate and engage online and with digital media and content, most users were more than happy to passively consume said content. T o some of the study participants, the flow of information in the social space is seen as a more ambient activity and background noise.  From the summary of the findings on the Razorfish site:

    Historically, digital pundits have promised a more interactive future, in which users move away from passive, couch potato viewing to more active engagement. While the amount of user-generated content and sharing supports this movement, we have found everyday users increasingly leaning back in their digital consumption habits. Social media is described as a more ambient activity. “[Facebook] is usually a drag. I just feel lazy like I’m seeing the same old stuff and looking at people’s profiles. I feel somewhat guilty about it sometimes, like I’m wasting time.” Twitter, originally categorized as a social tool, is described more as a curation tool. “I don’t really tweet anymore. I just see what I should think about reading.”

    The folks at Razorfish advise organizations looking to engage with consumers, (in our terms as HR folks employees and candidates), to not be afraid to be a 'pusher', that is to offer content meant primarily to be consumed, and to focus less on stimulating ongoing and sustained conversation. The rapid rise of the the iPad and the other tablets seem to bear this out, they are primarily consumption devices. The little 'creation' that emerges from most tablets are simply shares, likes, and re-tweets, the simplest and most low commitment form of content engagement there is.

    The net of all this?

    Well the Razorfish study was very small, and certainly should not be the sole data point to base a social content and engagement strategy. But I think an important takeaway from the study is to take a longer and more critical look at both what passes for conventional wisdom in the social media and social networking space, and what can easily become a 'follow fast' strategy that may not necessarily be the right one for your organization. 

    If nothing else, results from these kind of studies that make us examine carefully our assumptions on what is still a nascent space are worthwhile, and even if you disagree with them, as I imagine many will, occasional validation of your own assumptions is a good outcome in itself.


    What's Missing from the 2010 Social Software Predictions

    Recently the Gartner Group released its key predictions on the use of social software and collaboration technology in the enterprise, details can be found here - 'Five Social Software Predictions for 2010 and Beyond.'

    Among the five predictions the most interesting and provocative to me are two: Flickr - bitterjug

    One - By 2014, social networking services will replace e-mail as the primary vehicle for interpersonal communications for 20 percent of business users.

    This may not seem like too bold a prediction, but even if only 20% of business users do migrate to social networking as the primary interpersonal communication tool that represents a massive shift in the primary means of electronic communication.  E-mail has been so dominant for so long, to see its primacy usurped even to this level is truly a bold prediction.  What is also likely is e-mail clients and services attempting to get more 'social', (G-mail to introduce status update streams), and social networks to get more classic e-mail features (Facebook to emphasize messaging). 

    But still, for most business users, life without e-mail being the primary communication tool still seems a long way off.

    Two - Through 2012, over 70 percent of IT-dominated social media initiatives will fail.

    We have seen this prediction and finding again and again. When technology projects are dominated by IT, or seen by the business users as being 'IT initiatives', the likelihood of success diminishes. Gartner ascribes this to what they term as the traditional IT approach that has been limited to simply providing a technical solution or platform, as opposed to delivering a 'business' solution that meets the organization's needs. Social software solutions are many, the technologies vary widely, the capability and potential of a given tool really does need to be matched to a complex environment of organization structure, preferred methods of working, personal relationships, etc.  Simply 'providing' a technology (like IT does with e-mail, file storage, telephony, etc.) will not be a successful social software strategy for most organizations.

    What's Missing

    These predictions are drawn from a larger Gartner report titled: Predicts 2010: Social Software Is an Enterprise Reality, issued in December 2009.  This report reviews and expands upon the five predictions that were released more widely last week and runs about 10 pages long.  Rather than try and add to, or modify any of the individual five predictions in the report, (because really, if I issued my own predictions for 2014 here would anyone hold me to them?  For the record two words: Flying Cars), I want to focus on what the overall report and recommendations completely ignore.

    What's missing in the short 'public' version, and in the longer source report is this: a single mention of Human Resources, Talent Management, or any indication that the people in the organization that are meant to be most attuned, and ideally responsible for understanding and promoting the kinds of behaviors, culture, and collaborations needed to truly make these social software projects successful in the enterprise.  No recommendations that HR has the expertise and the organizational imperative to make social software and collaboration an enterprise reality.  Not even a nod that IT should 'partner' with HR to develop strategy and plan for social software implementations.  Gartner does advise that IT partner with 'the business' in these efforts, but does anyone believe by 'the business' they are referring to HR?

    To me, the point is not so much what these predictions specifically say, or how accurate they may or may not be.  The importance is that for organizations new to these concepts and technologies, ones that require a far deeper understanding of how the organization works (or needs to work) to be successful, that HR and the 'Talent' function might simply be ignored, or only consulted if a 'policy' needs to be crafted.

    This is just one report, and perhaps I am over reacting a bit, but I do believe strongly that the introduction, application, and successful leveraging of social software in the enterprise is one of the most significant business opportunities for HR and Talent Management in the next 5 years.  It would be a shame for HR, and for the organization, to sit on the sidelines and watch IT wrestle with the problem.


    An Opportunity for 2009, Wait 2010

    NOTE: I thought I would re-run a few posts from 2009 during the holiday week, and I came across this one, originally posted December 28, 2008 - almost exactly one year ago.  Then, I opined on the tremendous opportunity for HR organizations to lead and drive the implementation of new tools and technologies to support workforce collaboration.  I wonder if in 2009, that this opportunity was really largely missed, consumed by the recession, survival-mode thinking, and too much debating and strategizing, and not enough 'doing'.  Let me know what you think, did HR really miss on this in 2009? And can we take advantage of this in 2010?

    Flickr - sebastien.YEPES

    An Opportunity for 2009 - December 28, 2008

    Ok, you are probably sick of reading blogs, analyst opinions, and watching Webinars that all keep saying the same thing: in 2009 there are opportunities for HR Technologists to make substantial impact deploying systems or platforms to improve collaboration, networking, and information sharing. 

    Take a look at this quote from the Collaborative Thinking blog by Mike Gotta:

    An opportunity for HR in 2009

    Generational shifts: GenY and aging workforce trends create opportunities for HR groups to take on a much more strategic role. Employee, retiree and alumni social networks for instance have the potential to help organizations become more resilient and agile by allowing it to capitalize on its internal and extended relationships - often in ways not constrained by formal institutional structures

     How about this one from the Aberdeen Group's Kevin Martin:

    While HR and IT can often butt heads regarding HR systems implementations, Aberdeen's research has uncovered that HR should collaborate with IT to advance Web 2.0 initiatives and achieve the above-referenced common organizational objective: organizational knowledge capture and transfer.

    And if you come to the realization and conclusion that social networking and collaboration technologies are the right tools for your organization and want to champion their adoption and deployment but are faced with skeptical or less-informed management? How do you convince the 'old-guard' managers and influencers that social technologies are a valuable, soon to be essential tool, and not just a distraction from 'real work'? How about this answer from Knowledge Infusion:

     Don't try. Start at grassroots level with a ripe and receptive department or business unit. Once there is success and viral effect, the old school executives will take notice and support an enterprise approach.

    You know, deep down you know, that jumping in to the Web 2.0 world is the right thing to do in 2009.  The start-up investment is extremely low, the learning curves are short, and there are loads of articles, blogs, case studies describing how numerous organizations have approached and have had success with these tools.

    Don't wait for the jokers in IT to do this and grab all the glory a year from now!