Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Taking advice from Ants: Businesses should not be afraid of social networking or of Enterprise Search

My starting point here is a post in Computer Weekly around the topic "Businesses should not be afraid of social networks", nor of search engines. I then demonstrate my point using ants as an illustration of productivity...

It's very simple, every day we are overwelmed by emails, contacts, processes, documents to read, micro-tasks to do or deliver, things to become aware of... The old way of handling this (meaning organization, planification,...) just does not scale when we look at the increasing volumes we need to manage. We must stay focused on our own value creation, on what we need to do and deliver, after all, this is why we get paid, isn't it? And yet, when we are part of a larger organization, we need to follow its rythm and to be synchronized with its strategy.

So how do we do to stay focused and productive, and at the same time stay synchronized with the rest of the Enterprise, how do we do this using the least amount of energy? Ants have... antennae :). For us, white and blue collar workers, it's pretty simple: we just need to stay in contact and in context with others. Two main tools share the benefit of being very interactive and contextual, and yet non intrusive: an enterprise social network and an enterprise search engine. The first one facilitates exchange around topics or with people and helps understand which way the wind is blowing and what others are doing and concerned with. The second one allows me to find approriate information that is useful to me in my activity, giving me the full context, highlighting those parts of the company or those people whose experience or skills will help me gain time and efficiency, therefore I'll be able to leverage their experience. Enterprise Search and Social Networks tend to develop an appropriate interaction, that means within context, to help me make sure that what I do is aligned with the rest of what gets done in my company.

It does not look like much, but this is probably one of the explanations of recent misfortunes of large banks, famous delays in large industrial programs, Research and Development flops, absurd answers that we get from call centers... Unlike what years of taylorism would lead us to believe, the key to the problem does not lie in the quality of the processes nor in the accuracy of the control paterns, it lies in the richness of interactions between the different individuals or entities of a group, and their capacit to connect to the complete context of their organisation. This needs to be very fluid, there need to be antennae between co-workers, and social networks and enteprise search just do that right.

A famous theory explains this: Emergence. It's been developed among others by Turing who was trying to understand how could Manchester city grow so fast and so unplanned and yet be so efficiently organized. Ants alone are pretty dumb and not at all productive, they are hard to train, but if you let them interact, they are collectively very efficient and coordinated. At the era of information and unified telecomunication, a company without a social network and a good enterprise search solution is like an ant nest where ants would not have antennae: do not expect miracles...

ps : a link towards my post in Computer Weekly

Computer Weekly Article :

To read article click here

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