Many of us believe we ain’t seen nothing yet in terms of the usefulness of the Web. Or perhaps from the other perspective, many see massive political, business and societal risk in the evolution of the Web. But with thanks to Peter Evans-Greenwood for sharing with me a fascinating link over the weekend, perhaps we are starting to see how this usefulness will manifest itself – and how the inherent risks can be managed. The semantic Web, or Web 3.0, is so called because it represents the evolution whereby machines can read and interact with the mass of Web content and services, as well as people. It’s really worth reading that last sentence a couple of times because if one considers what this could really mean, it is very interesting indeed. Or put another way, think machines, not just people, working in the Web 2.0 way. And perhaps Sandy sheds some light on what we’ll soon be seeing in our homes and offices. To borrow words from this recent and extremely well written Economist.com arcticle ‘When Rael Dornfest e-mails his business partners about meetings and interesting titbits worth archiving, he copies the e-mail to his assistant, Sandy. Though Sandy cannot yet organise his evenings in foreign cities, Sandy can run his diary. Sandy also runs his address book and forwards reminders from his family to his mobile phone without being asked. Sandy, of course, is not a person. Sandy is a piece of software that Mr Dornfest and his colleagues are developing and whom, once Sandy is thoroughly tested, he hopes to sell to a wider world…’ And so what might this mean to the here and now of management strategy? Intriguingly Sandy starts to blur the boundaries between people and IT – or in one organisational management sense – between human resource and IT asset management. To some, Sandy would be described as a software agent and Rael would be described as an employee. But in a sense both are in fact agents. Both Sandy and Rael have Values (goals and constraints), act on Policy (mandates, laws and rules that govern how things get done), have a focus on Events (real world things that happen – often the stimulus for business activity), work with Content, and work in the context of Trust (the trust relationships between the participants in a system of value). For sure Rael will undoubtedly be able to outsmart Sandy but Sandy can do things in seconds that would take Rael hours if not days – and probable do a much better job of it – and perhaps more importantly can do things with the universe of Web content and services Rael could never do. So, today, we talk about IT in terms of applications and databases. Tomorrow, we might start to talk about IT more in terms of agents and information. Sandy is of course an IT resource, and Rael is a ‘human resource’ – but both are ‘agents’ and I think understanding this will not only help us get really useful services from IT, but will also help us get along just fine. Oh, and a possible evolution for the HR function of the future? AR – the ‘agent resources’ function – I just hope Sandy gives me positive 360 degree feedback.