The Personal Enterprise

Pete and I have been talking a lot about our Organizational Design work as we have reflected back on 2009 and what that means in terms of Social Business Design as we go forward. For each piece of strategy that we deliver, we always need to be able to back it up with concrete changes at the organizational level for customers who are ready to act. There will be a post from me on the Collaboratory (You can subscribe to the RSS feed here) later this week with some more thoughts on this.

The reason I bring that up is that in looking at better ways that an organization can operate, we often look at the current service delivery model. How are services shared, delivered and managed? Which functions and resources are centralized and which are distributed? Does centralization mean less flexibility? Does distribution mean less reliability? We look at services inside the organization through the lenses of People, Process and Technology.

This is a long way of saying: I’ve been thinking about “shared services” and how that concept is going to change very soon.

Then over the weekend JP wrote about the The Facebookisation of the enterprise.

JP’s dream is more than just the Facebookisation of the enterprise, he is talking about the personalization of the enterprise.

imagine an “enterprise” world where:

  • You chose your own phone
  • You chose your own portable computing device (which may be your phone)
  • You chose your own desktop computing device (which may be your television)
  • You chose the operating systems you put on these devices
  • In other words, the IT department had “lost control of the device”.

I’m not sure whether we need IT departments to “lose control” of the devices used for work, so much as we need them to “give up control” of the data that is available to whatever devices the user chooses. I think that the Personal Enterprise is one where the definition of “shared services” includes thinking about what the user provisions for themselves, not just what is given to them.

The personalization of the enterprise is already happening. It couldn’t be more obvious these days. People are literally carrying two laptops and two cellphones with them. Sit down in any meeting (although I notice this trend far more in the US than in Canada right now) and you can be sure that a handful of the people there will reach in one pocket for their Blackberry, and then they will reach in to another pocket for their iPhone.

How do Police officers coordinate and communicate while working? Ask some of them: More and more it is happening on their personal cellphones. The radios and dispatch systems provided by most police departments are insecure, lack privacy and have centralized dispatching.

So, where do you draw the line? Where is the walled garden and where are the open spaces? I think this is the trick, and where a lot of enterprises will get caught.

The Personal Enterprise (or the Facebookisation of it) is not about picking and choosing which services get opened up and which have controlled delivery, instead it is about opening up as much data as possible and creating an ecosystem that allows personalization to be developed.

We are now coming out of an era where IT delivery was more efficient when it was done as an end-to-end controlled process. I do not believe that has been anything malicious or wrong about how things have been done to date. Controlling the platforms, devices and information that the end user can have access to was simply more efficient: Laptops were expensive, so you wanted to do a volume deal. Blackberries and service plans were very pricy, and then you needed a “Blackberry Enterprise Server” on top of that, and that only really worked with a full on Microsoft Exchange server setup.

Don’t forget how much Databases (still) cost. Doing millions of transactions? You used to have just a few options. For some of your data those are still your options, but you can now deploy MySQL or Postgres at a web, departmental, workgroup and even personal computer level. So you have 4 of the 5 major database types covered right there with free and highly reliable software.

Lets also not forget how “standards” never really used to be standards at all. They were lock-in tools, and the vendors who supported them gave you just enough rope to hang yourself. Having DCOM flashbacks here. Now you can feel free to tell your vendor to bake that RESTful API in from the start, otherwise you are happy to have it built yourself.

Open the data and create incentives for developers and designers to create practical and beautiful things. Users will scream loudly, designers will listen and developers will build. Utopia perhaps, but not far away to be honest.

The thing that is standing in the way of the Personal Enterprise is that we believe that being complicated is a prerequisite for IT. The truth is however that the services that mean the most to end users are some of the simplest and need the least “engineering”. They are rich profiles, SMS (or BBM) messaging, Email, phone and document sharing.

The personalization of the enterprise is happening in communication first, and the sooner that IT departments can get out of the communication business and focus on data, then we will be in a much better place.

Dachis Group Technology Alliances

Today we are announcing a set of global Social Business Technology Alliances which are part of a broader push to develop implementation services in the new field of Social Business software.

For a great summary, read Pete’s post, David’s or Kate’s.

You can also read my full post on, or take a look at the press release.

If you are interested in finding out more about to work with these vendors, with Open Source software or custom developed solutions, please get in touch.

Google Wave and Jevons' Paradox

A few days ago I wrote about Jevons’ Paradox and “The Attention Question”: The idea that we do not need to create tools that take up more of our time and attention, but instead we need to start building social tools in business that focus first on productivity and results, and on being social as a secondary goal.

Robert Scoble really nails the same point in his post about Google Wave and its email pedigree. When I first had a chance to use Google Wave a few weeks ago I said that I thought it felt a bit regressive.

Is Google Wave falling victim to Jevons’ Paradox?
The search for a better general collaboration tool continues and a lot of vendors are feeling the pressure to build better and better tools to allow people to connect, share and collaborate. Google Wave does this well. Take an existing set of tools such as IM and Email, layer some social networking thought on top of them and open up some collaboration spaces for people to create content.

My experience with Google Wave has been that it is an attention black hole. Part of this is a result of the fact that Email and IM are the primary paradigms on which the user experience is based. The other is that Google Wave is another example of directionless connectedness. Interaction without intent.

You can argue that this is the power of Google Wave and email. The idea that the user is given the tools and it is up to them to figure out what to do with them. I would argue that Jevons’ Paradox still stands, and that these tools will create efficiency in interacting, but not in actual business process or value creation.

Dennis Howlett says that “effectiveness not efficiency has to be the goal. We’re already moderately efficient in our processes” and he is right.

Breakthroughs in effectiveness are not going to be mass-purpose tools, they will be specific tools which allow the user to be more effective than before by using social concepts to make use of the efficiencies that are already in existence.