A recent resurgence of the ‘is Social Business dead?’ meme bubbled over this week in a post by Chris Heuer, and smelling the bacon grease I ran toward the fire, offered up an analysis, and announced a new project, at the same time:
Social business isn’t dead, but it has become tired. It’s not longer even an edgy and emotive alternative to business-as-usual, and partly because of the half he [Heuer] gets wrong or never examines: today’s tools for social business. The world of business has moved ahead to accepting the class of contemporary technologies that embody the slightly better 2013-style of collaborative business, dominated by work management tools from Microsoft, Salesforce, IBM, Jive, and other established enterprise software vendors. To the extent that those tools and the practices that surround them define the social business, then they have become commonplace, not a profound redefinition of working together in new ways.• What is needed, though, is not a retreat to arguing about the term social business, but a movement forward, a movement embodied as a community of people committed to advancing new principles of learning, organization, leadership, and management, pushing forward into a new future of work. •
In writings more recent that the January piece Heuer pointed to, I have made a strong case for the following trends, supported by a wide range of research here at GigaOM and other firms:
• To the extent that social business was a concept that a community of practitioners hoped would represent or spark a radical break with the past, it has fallen short. •
- C-level executives hope to gain another round of productivity from new technologies and practices that are grouped under the loose rubric of ‘social’.
- They believe that the mechanisms used in the past — demanding more work from employees, and routinization of work practices — cannot be used again, at least not to get any serious gains.
- The answer — if that is a question — is for organizations to adopt a new form factor for business, one that undoes the rules and loosens the ties that make businesses slow to learn, innovate, and respond.
- One of the toolsets to apply in this quest for the fast-and-loose business are ideas about working socially and tools to support that. However, the greatest advances are likely to be more closely linked to fundamentals of organizational culture, and the relationship of the individual to work and the organization, rather than a social business breakthrough, per se.
Perhaps, then, I could restate Heuer’s apocalyptic statement into something more practical and pragmatic: social business isn’t dead, but it isn’t enough, either. And simply getting the meaning of the term straightened out — if such a thing is possible, at this point — won’t add much, either. At the best, there are a set of ideas derived from the social revolution on the web — like pull versus push communication, and the benefits of defaulting to open, not closed, communication — that can be productively applied to make working socially easier and faster.
What is needed, though, is not a retreat to arguing about the term social business, but a movement forward, a movement embodied as a community of people committed to advancing new principles of learning, organization, leadership, and management, pushing forward into a new future of work.
To the extent that social business was a concept that a community of practitioners hoped would represent or spark a radical break with the past, it has fallen short. You can interpret that as a failure of the concept, or a sign of endurance of the mainstream notion of business, or perhaps even as a failed power grab by those most loudly advocating for ‘social business’-led change. But this does not mean that work isn’t changing, or that we do not need even more change — in our organizations and ourselves — in the months and years ahead. We do. It is essential to find new balance in a new normal, where the ground beneath our metaphorical feet is never steady and always shifting.
I am committed to help give such a movement a bit more definition, and in the following weeks I will be laying out some ideas about a loose community of people committed to the investigation of the future of work. I am launching an effort to do that called Chautauqua, named after the adult education movement of late 19th and early 20th century America. I hope to work with local groups across the country and internationally to explore a topic central to the future of work each month, in a model stolen (honestly) from the Pecha Kucha and Creative Mornings movements.
Microsoft needs to hire a new CEO with a vision to make the company the market leader in a new era of enterprise software and one who will avoid the entanglements of consumer devices. Ballmer made a huge gamble on consumer demand for Microsoft gadgets, and it’s just not there. The board could make a stupendous strategic error and continue to pour billions down the drain chasing that chimera, or instead it could get with the present. Instead, hire someone who will acquire Box or Dropbox and pull in promising startups like Asana. And who will spin off, shut down, or ramp down money losing sinkholes like Surface, Windows Phone, and, yes, even Windows itself. It should definitely spin out Xbox, so maybe Windows could go with that as a short-term source of cash.
Azure may have legs, but cloud computing infrastructure is going to be a tough, tough market, with a number of wounded dinosaurs hoping to play there, like HP, IBM, Cisco, and of course, the giants like Amazon and VMware.
We’ll see how far this past year’s crash has radicalized Microsoft’s board. I don’t know Qi Lu, who now heads up Applications and Services Engineering at Microsoft, which is the enterprise computing heart of the company. He may not be the guy for this cycle at Microsoft, but it should be someone who sees that group as the future for the company. Perhaps David Sacks, the founder of Yammer. He’s a visionary, anyway, and so is Adam Pisoni, the Yammer CTO.
I still think there is a future for Microsoft, as I laid out in “Microsoft will rise from the ashes of Windows and Surface failures,” but it’s not the future Ballmer gambled on: It’s the enterprise.
From GigaOM Research:
I will be presenting one of the keynotes at the upcoming Social Now conference, 18-19 April 2013, in Lisbon. I am eager to go, not just because Lisbon is a wonderful city where I have old friends, but also because the event is very tool-focused. In fact, I am one of the few presenters not directly talking about tools.
So I thought I would share an abstract of the talk, and after the conference I will publish something longer, once I have heard what I have to say.
The Future Of Work In A Social World
The social revolution is still in its early days, but we have enough experience to have learned a bit, and to be able to conjecture even more. The arrival of social tools is one part of a larger, swirling mess of large-scale change smashing into our lives like a tornado, and tearing the roof off the world of business. The elements of that mess all influence each other — tech factors like digital, mobile, and the cloud, societal shifts like urbanization, new media, and the always-on lifestyle, and correspondingly massive stressors like climate change, globalism, the shifting social contract, and the boom/bust cycle of the world economy — these seem to be the new normal in the 21st century. The new normal is that there is no normal anymore. Welcome to the Postnormal.
We can be certain of little, but it’s safe to say that the future of work will be social (and other adjectives), and businesses that are becoming social are confronted by the need for deep cultural change, which is hard. The degree of difficulty depends on where you are starting from. I will present a new model of corporate culture, based on values and organization style, called the 3C model. [This will be the debut!] I think this will help us understand the nature of the change called for, what sorts of resistance is likely, and an end state: the form factor of a social business.
In brief, we are seeing a transition from process-defined work, where tightly defined rules and narrowly constrained roles shape people working lives, and organize the company culture into a collective mindset, toward relationship-framed work, where people use creativity, innovation, and connection to determine how to accomplish increasingly nonroutine work, and where we see a shift to fast-and-loose cooperation from tight-and-slow collaboration.
I will talk about the tools and practices that are most relevant — and those that are missing — for this transition to move forward. And finally, some thoughts about what that future social world might feel like for its inhabitants.
I managed to get invited to Orchestra’s Mailbox launch — if you try to sign up today there are 433,636 people waiting — and the app kills. It implement the email triage I have been doing with external task management tools like Asana and Todoist for years. And it’s so fast because of the gestural interface.
Here’s ‘swipe left to snooze email’ —
— which leads to a second screen where you can quickly assign a day when the snoozed email should be returned to your inbox from the Gmail archive. Yes, it only works on Gmail accounts, and only runs on iOS, at the present time.
My bottom line from the piece at GigaOM Research:
Inbox triage has long been a necessary chore, but Mailbox makes it simple and intuitive. My bet is that Mailbox will be an enormous hit, and will become one of the apps that define and confirm the new gestural UX that we are moving into so quickly. Also, I am sure that all other email clients will knock off the principles of email triage à la Mailbox. I envision a browser version of this working PCs in combination with Leap Motion, but it’s killer as is, and for people on iOS devices it will quickly become the default mail client of choice.
Go read the whole post, if you want.
PS Apple should buy them immediately.
I posted this over at GigaOM Pro:
I think there is an important parallel between urban travel and social business. There is a now well-understood but counter-intuitive law in traffic engineering, called Braess’ paradox, where closing streets can lead to better traffic flow.
The brainchild of mathematician Dietrich Braess of Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, the eponymous paradox unfolds as an abstraction: it states that in a network in which all the moving entities rationally seek the most efficient route, adding extra capacity can actually reduce the network’s overall efficiency. The Seoul project inverts this dynamic: closing a highway—that is, reducing network capacity—improves the system’s effectiveness.
It turns out that you don’t have to actually close streets off to cars to get these effects, you can institute what is called ‘shared streets’, where traffic lights and markings are removed, forcing drivers to operate on a more social basis: making eye contact with other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. These approaches share a common basis: movement in the system requires multilateral agreement. In Braess’ world, unilateral optimization is blocked, and in shared streets, social interaction is made necessary.
My belief is that this is quite like the adoption of social principles in business.
Go read the whole thing, where I lay out Boyd’s Law, among other things.
Nimble fails as social email buff.ly/10HOeNZ Implementing social email would benefit the core users of that social selling app— Stowe Boyd (@stoweboyd) January 19, 2013
I review Crushpath, a new social selling tool (I hate the term ‘CRM’). The company was founded by Sam Lawrence, the former chief marketing officer at Jive, and is based around the ‘crushpath’, a visual metaphor for the give-and-take between sales people and the prospect.
While Crushpath is not contact-centric, obviously it allows saving and accessing leads, and generating and sharing projections, so it will fit in with the conventional sales processes in place in most companies, today. However, Crushpath clearly has one foot firmly planted in the new social, web-centric world of business, and aligns with the social logic that today’s sales professionals would like to use, given the right tools.
Go read the whole piece at GigaOM.
My review of ten team task management tools now available at GigaOM Pro, using a task model versus team model 10x10 grid approach:
Excerpt to give a sense of the analysis in the report:
Three offerings in the top tier — Do, Trello, and Asana — cluster together, with Wrike as an outlier. Do and Asana are competitive products, sharing common design metaphors as well as similar team and task models. Both scored an eight for having effective killer features, as did Trello. Trello has perhaps the most innovative user experience of all of these top-tier solutions. But the choice between those two user experience design approaches has to be left to the user, ultimately. Wrike, the outlier in this tier, is a somewhat less team-oriented tool but has the richest task model of all the products.
I think in future versions of this report I will a/ start with a larger group of products, b/ winnow down more aggressively, with one sentence or one paragraph characterizations of the lower tiers, and c/ provide in depth reviews of the top tier solutions, only.
Now Microsoft is only left with two instant messaging/video/voice solutions to juggle, Skype and Lync. One too many I think, so I am betting on Skype: the better brand.