Daily Archives: June 16, 2009

The future of enterprise collaboration

I have just finished talking to a group of university students who were invited to IBM Hursley today. I had about 15 minutes to discuss Enterprise Collaboration, and I used the time to take a quick tour through IBM’s size, diversity and organisation, and talked about how the way I operate has changed since I got engaged in blogging internally four years ago, and how I “broke through” the firewall.

Towards the beginning of the talk, I asked three questions to get some group discussion going, and asked the students to shout out some answers. Here’s a summary of the responses.

1. What kinds of tools do you think enterprises use to communicate internally today?
“Skype”, “online meetings”, “MSN” (email and phone came right at the end of the list)

2. What kinds of tools would you like to use in a work environment?
“Facebook”, “Skype”

3. Is it a good idea, or appropriate, to communicate and share through firewalls?
“It’s important, for networking”, “companies could have their own version of Facebook internally”

I didn’t seed any of these responses! Very interesting… I think I’d expected the answers to question 1 to be email, wiki, blog etc., but those are all old school (and possibly, irrelevant) as far as this group was concerned. I guess the outcome of this entirely unscientific survey will be old news to some people, but I found it fascinating.

Update 17th June:
Thanks for all the interest in this post! I should just reiterate that this is not new news – as @andysc said to me after the talk yesterday, the idea that “email is how I communicate with my parents” is as commonplace as the idea that some of us may have had that “snail mail is how we communicated with our grandparents”. The point here is about the expectation of speed of spread of technology within corporations. I found it a very interesting perspective, although I guess I’d half-expected some of the answers. I just hadn’t expected the “old tech” to be buried so far down in the consciousness. But then, when I left university, web browsers were just emerging and I had a desktop email client at home, but yet I suddenly found myself at work using a green-screen terminal emulator to access what was, to my mind at the time, a hideously hard-to-use mail system called MEMO which required the use of line-editing commands.

One other point, given my own interest in these two technology spaces – Andy C asks below about microblogging, and I certainly mentioned our use of these tools internally and externally, but it didn’t seem to be on the students’ radar; secondly, I spoke about attending meetings in virtual worlds and the relative effectiveness compared to a teleconference, but again that didn’t come up as an idea in the responses to the questions at the start. So it seems (again, based on a highly unscientific study of a limited pool of London MSc Management students) that the technologies that are “expected” in the enterprise are those that have reached widespread consumer adoption outside it.