The Sea Change in Enterprise IT: Social

An open secret about the Cape Fear area is how many techies here work not at small boutique IT shops or local businesses but at employers like Cisco, IBM, SAS, Yahoo, HP.

These large organizations are all grappling with the incredible changes being wrought by the web–by new collaborative technologies, new media habits, social networking. My own employer–one of these listed here–has published some “social computing guidelines” to help organize our thinking around our sometimes very public roles as technologists and our sometimes very private data–company plans and product information, business practices, that sort of thing.

But the problem is much larger than how and what to tweet about technology. These organizations are finding that business, like everything else that has anything to do with technology, is being done in a whole new way, and that enterprise competencies and processes are not adapted to this new way at all. In fact they’re realizing that if processes and expertise inside the enterprise are not changed, quickly and dramatically, then the enterprise will be left behind the curve of history.

Supply chains, customer service, workflows, content management…All of these are being handled in denser, collaborative, more open, and way more efficient ways on the web than in the traditional enterprise IT department. And all the CEOs know it and worry about it and try things, but it’s not clear how ready any of these very large organizations are to really understand and adapt to these new “systems of engagement” as opposed to the earlier “systems of record” in which they’ve been dominant.

This general malaise and lack of direction–and my own involvement in the enterprise–are what made Geoffrey Moore’s report Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT: A Sea Change in Enterprise IT such a great read.

As the summary says, the report “examines the fundamental revolution underway in enterprise IT brought about by ubiquitous Internet access, the proliferation of powerful mobile computing devices, and the consumerization of IT” and outlines “the path forward for implementing, sustaining, and managing social technologies effectively and responsibly.” It’s really well written and insightful–profound, really–particularly the way it situates social technologies in the larger context of systems generally.

Geoffrey Moore is known for his keen analysis, his way with metaphors that illuminate and then become definitive (“crossing the chasm”, for example), for his systems thinking. Well, he’s really done it here. The report provides a historic perspective, vocabulary, systematic overview, and set of next actions for tackling this social revolution in the enterprise. A colleague of mine who forwarded it to me called it “semi-required” reading…I agree.

Report PDF and overview here:

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