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Open Social – the missing link for Web 2.0 users and the Enterprise?

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The last two weeks have been hectic, Norway, Netherlands, USA, and UK, all with multiple meetings with CIOs, some private sector, some public sector and some military. That’s a pretty broad sample and all have the same key issue; their users are deploying Web 2.0 type technologies and deciding to work differently. In some cases, public or financial sectors, it adds the question of who is the user as increasingly their customers, or citizens, are part of the driving force. This is not just Shadow IT, a handful of users doing something for themselves in the shadows of the main IT services; this is well on the way to becoming mainstream services. Notice that I did not say IT, because there is the other big issue that kept coming up, the traditional IT support management, and many of the staff didn’t get it, and weren’t helping to understand, let alone solve the issue. Now keep that in mind when reading the rest of this Blog. Google have just launched ‘Open Social’ and amongst those who support it are Salesforce.com, the same people who we can associate as one of the forces that drove Software as a Service, SaaS. Salesforce.com drove sales force automation by focussing on the people, or personal, element as opposed to traditional CRM which focused on the data on the customer enterprise. And sales people loved it, so much so that they paid the SaaS subscription personally and didn’t need, or bother, to tell the enterprise that they used it. Probably guessed the reaction would be ‘No’! Oracle? Well that’s now Siebel CRM so there is the same interest in the people aspect. So what exactly is Open Social? Put simply its taking the concept of the Facebook in providing a ‘container’ – the social network itself, and the ‘apps’ which can be embedded in the container. However as Open Social is what it says i.e. an ‘open standard’ API with support from most of the leading Social Networks, except currently Facebook, the containers are any and all of the Social Networks. Now that coupled with the connection to Enterprise software vendors is what is going to change the game, in my opinion. I like the in depth opinions here if you want to look into the details further. I believe the significant shift we are starting to see in work patterns takes us from the PC Network with Matrix Working to Web based Mesh Working. (More on this in a future Blog piece). An infinite number of possible connections with people and content (through social tagging) to find out what we need to know, coupled with shared working environments (WiKis, Blogs and even Google style Apps) to complete the task. Open Social makes it all come one stage nearer by starting to

  • a) improve the interactions with the social networks, and
  • b) offer the currently missing path to connect back to the existing enterprise World.
The focus in the new Web 2.0 and Mesh World is on people and their interactions using technology designed for them to deploy, and not on the technology, taxonomies and other elements of traditional IT. It is therefore no surprise that it’s the people themselves driving it, but does this mean the end of traditional IT? Certainly not, any more than the failure of the mainframe to disappear as predicted by the PC generation, the challenge is to understand the different propositions and values of the various technology layers. I think of them as
  • 1) the Calculating Computer
  • 2) the Programmable Mainframe
  • 3) the Application Mini
  • 4) the Information Network
  • 5) the People Web.
The question is are we making enough effort to understand from the people (users) point of view what the values are from Web 2.0 and Mesh Working?

About the author

Andy Mulholland
Andy Mulholland
Capgemini Global Chief Technology Officer until his retirement in 2012, Andy was a member of the Capgemini Group management board and advised on all aspects of technology-driven market changes, together with being a member of the Policy Board for the British Computer Society. Andy is the author of many white papers, and the co-author three books that have charted the current changes in technology and its use by business starting in 2006 with ‘Mashup Corporations’ detailing how enterprises could make use of Web 2.0 to develop new go to market propositions. This was followed in May 2008 by Mesh Collaboration focussing on the impact of Web 2.0 on the enterprise front office and its working techniques, then in 2010 “Enterprise Cloud Computing: A Strategy Guide for Business and Technology leaders” co-authored with well-known academic Peter Fingar and one of the leading authorities on business process, John Pyke. The book describes the wider business implications of Cloud Computing with the promise of on-demand business innovation. It looks at how businesses trade differently on the web using mash-ups but also the challenges in managing more frequent change through social tools, and what happens when cloud comes into play in fully fledged operations. Andy was voted one of the top 25 most influential CTOs in the world in 2009 by InfoWorld and is grateful to readers of Computing Weekly who voted the Capgemini CTOblog the best Blog for Business Managers and CIOs each year for the last three years.

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