Saturday, July 26, 2008

Response to "Freedom is Overrated"

Professor Andrew McAfee has an interesting blog entry Freedom is Overrated in his Harvard Business School blog. In it, he discusses Facebook and Twitter and asks about their uses as business tools. In response to his question, I made several comments from my personal experience . I have found that social networks are used on the fringes of business, not in core businesses. I'll offer an example of the first, reasons for the second and insight into what I think will happen with them.

Use in the Fringes of Business
Please note that my saying "Fringes" is not pejorative, but rather it refers to the outer edges of the network, which is where the really interesting things happen.

One of the great things about FB (Facebook) is that it allows people to create verifiable and yet pseudonymous users. Furthermore, it allows you to create private groups, where only people who are known and invited can participate. Might there not be groups who want to securely blog and discuss events who would find FB useful?

Core Businesses Concerned about Social Tools
Many executives and managers in core businesses are rightfully concerned about the time wasting that accompanies FB and other social tools. There is also a security threat, which is very real. Additionally, there is the bigger issue, that there isn't a clearly defined business problem that social tools solve. Finally, there is the hurdle that many in IT view social networks, SaaS, etc as a threat. This is a valid concern, which, coupled with other issues, will probably keep social tools out of core business applications.

There are business leaders struggling to get blogging and other social/collaborative tools used in corporations. Their struggles are interesting to consider and offer interesting insights that the creators of social tools are not paying as much attention to as they should.

What I Believe will Happen
I do believe these tools will be used, but not in their social sense. They will be used as compliments to other processes (project management, corporate communications etc.) in modified forms. There are people whom I greatly admire who are trying to do this. They are the pioneers developing new, more efficient methods of solving business problems. I look forward to hearing about their successes and insights.

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