I’ve taken a new role at GigaOM this week, writing regularly for the Pro service in the Social topic area. It’s not a great departure since my work at GigaOM upt o the present has been social tools and the future of work, but I am now a regular contributor — a Curator, in their terminology — as well as writing a number of reports this coming year.
It’s a great group, and I’ve particularly enjoyed the collaboration of working with David Card, the VP of Research.
I have recently written a report on team task management tools (in production), and earlier this year I wrote the Work Media Roadmap (subscription required), tracking a number of leading work media tools — enterprise social networks — and most importantly, the forces that are causing companies to adopt them:
The old architecture of work was based on process-centric, collaborative work. That is, all the people involved in a business process — for example, new customer acquisition for a consumer-products company — would work exclusively on that process, and the process defined everyone’s work. In principle, each member of the consumer acquisition team would spend 100 percent of their time on that process, and all the members would be co-located (in cubicles or offices) so that the process could be as efficient as possible. Considerations of what would be best for the individual would be deemed irrelevant. Collaboration was the byword, and web tools were designed around symmetrical projects, where members derived their rights by being ‘invited’ — in other words, assigned — to process-based project groups.
A new architecture of work is now emerging. “White collar” work first became “knowledge” work. Now it is known as “creative work.” The transition from process to networks is not just a recasting and not just a different style of communication. Work is increasingly being styled as information sharing through social relationships, where following takes the place of being invited. People coordinate efforts but work on a wide variety of independent projects with different co-workers. A new degree of privacy and autonomy animates cooperative work, in comparison to collaborative work.
Individuals cooperating hand off information or take on tasks in a fashion that is like businesses cooperating: They understand the benefit in cooperating but don’t have to share a common core set of strategic goals to do so. They don’t need the complete alignment of goals with everyone they work with that defines old-style business employment.
We are moving into a world of work where individuals will act increasingly independently but still need to work closely and intensely with many others, in various forms of asymmetric and intransitive relationships. Business software will need to provide a much greater degree of fluidity in this new era than ever before.
I’m looking forward to continued investigation into the business of social business, and the future of work.