Work Media and Work Talk: The Federation Of Work

I have been throwing around the term Work Media a lot recently, so here’s the working definition:

Stowe Boyd, Enterprise 2.0, Social Business, And Work Media

Work Media: social tools designed for the enterprise but based on the patterns of interaction, influence, and communication from social networks of the open web.  Work media tools share a number of characteristics, most centrally the streaming metaphor of Twitter and Facebook, with short updates from a variety of sources cascade into each user’s dashboard, from which each can derive a networked gestalt of the world. Work media is altering the DNA of business.

As companies come to adopt work media tools to operate internally, relatively quickly they will hit the wall, literally. They will want to bridge outside the business to other companies, outside the walls of the enterprise. The baseline model for this today is to invite members of an outside group into a project, treating them as simply more users. This fails the federation test (see Basecamp and The Federation Of Work), meaning that individuals shouldn’t have to log in multiple times to participate in different instances of a work media tool.

Taking this to a new extent, users should not only be able to have a single identity across all the different projects they are participating in, no matter who created those project contexts. Businesses should also be able to interact with each other in structured ways, not just by having workers from company X working in a project created and managed by company Y, but by defining a way that company Y can cooperate with any other company.

For example, imagine a software testing company, AdjectiveNoun, exposing a ‘cliché’ – an external specification of how it can interact with others – so that a software development company can initiate a software testing project with AdjectiveNoun. The inputs – specifications, software, etc. – could passed into the company’s work media platform. And the end result of the project could be passed back to the customer as defined in the cliché  as well. Note that the inputs for the project might include some specific workers from the client company, who would have access to the AdjectiveNoun project, in a way that is similar to the baseline model: as if they were invited manually. However, the project is populated with all the context needed – the software, the specs, etc. – but the project is defined in the way that AdjectiveNoun does its work.

This model of cross-company work media – where the definition of clichés allows complex integration – is what I call ‘work talk’.

I have not seen any implementation of work talk in the marketplace today, but I anticipate that this will be the breakthrough for work media, across the world. Even if one work media competitor implements a work talk implementation I don’t think everyone will switch to that product, no matter how attractive the work talk capability is.

If my company is using Yammer and your company is using Podio, today we cannot work together unless one of us is willing to be a visitor in the other’s work platform. I believe we will need to define a work talk protocol so that all work media products can someday interoperate.

This will also create the opportunity for a marketplace, where companies can post profiles of their services, expressing their willingness to interoperate with other businesses, This is the next phase for work media, where companies can couple their internal operations with the operations of partners, on the fly.

There are many issues to be solved – trusted identities, publishing clichés and profiles, and so on – and I will be writing more about them in the coming weeks and months.

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