There were two cogent, insightful presentations at Enterprise 2.0-Boston (June 18-21) that dovetailed nicely to offer clear perspectives on where enterprise computing is headed and how IT plays a key role in social business -- in the move to people-centric computing and developing social infrastructures deeply integrated within enterprise architectures.
Social + enterprise infrastructure integration yields productive work context Enterprise social software is evolving into a primary IT environment, according to Larry Cannell, Research Director at Gartner in his talk "The Post 2.0 Era: Social in the Context of My Work." As such, IT needs to move from an application centered focus towards a people centered experience - oriented from the individual's level.
This was underscored by Mike Gotta, Senior Technology Solutions Manager, at Cisco in his talk "Design Considerations for Enterprise Social Networks: Identity, Graphs, Streams and Social Objects." As Gotta stated, IT departments need to "design for getting the work done, not design for the screen." An enterprise social design needs to support the collaborative structure of work, the independent agency of the individual and be designed to enable network effects, according to Gotta.
Socially rich activity streams can help a worker maintain ambient awareness within their sphere of activity and influence, but that stream needs to be presented contextually - within workstreams and business processes. This context-relevant activity stream therefore needs integration with enterprise business application and middleware - bringing in relevant artifacts, event notifications or exception handling processes into the flow. While business applications provide the context in which people work, their user experience also needs sources of social data - objects, actions, relationships (people-to-people, people-to-content and people-to-activity).
It's vital as well, Gotta noted, to understand and design for different types of ties -- teams may be oriented to project-based ties, business process interactions along role-based ties, communities for interest-based ties and corporate structure along reporting-based ties. An individual's engagement must be contextually supported along both workflow and a ties-based perspective.
- IT has typically run projects on a 'plan-build-run' project model but enterprise social networking needs a more sustained, programmatic approach
- Work practice analysis becomes critical -- Take the time to understand, observe how people work. It's about a focus on making people more efficient.
- Re-evaluate IT priorities - i.e., from 'need to know security policies towards high levels of information re-use.
- Cultivate an enterprise social software advocate and leadership role - help line-of-business leaders understand the opportunity, their role as owners of the experience and IT's role to advise, support and maintain.
Both these presentations offered a sophisticated understanding of the value of enterprise social within organizational IT infrastructures and the important design and architecture considerations that will enable real business and organizational transformations.