Gartner predicts shift to collective intelligence

Analysts say that a move towards more collaborative working models is inevitable for businesses

Analyst firm Gartner has claimed that businesses will increasingly incorporate "collective intelligence" working patterns within their business models.

Web 2.0 methods of working within a wide community to achieve common goals will be embraced by businesses within five to 10 years, predicted Gartner.

Many companies have already started to use collaborative Wikis, which allow employees to freely edit ongoing projects while quality is checked through peer review rather than being subject to top-down control. This will increasingly become the norm.

Open source software development, which relies on collective community action by enthusiasts, will inevitably take over from proprietary software development as the dominant business model, according to Jackie Fenn, Gartner fellow in emerging trends and technologies.

"Open source is part of a broader phenomenon of companies starting to utilise a broader range of people," Fenn told ZDNet UK. "This phenomenon is inevitable, and works for code, posts on Wikis, and people tagging in websites such as Flickr. A potential model could be peer review of a design document," Fenn told ZDNet UK.

Fenn was speaking after the launch of Gartner's emerging technologies hype cycle for 2006, which identified the Semantic Web, social-network analysis and mashups as key themes for the future.

The challenge for companies will be to gauge when peer review produces superior-quality work.

Fenn recognised that there were potential intellectual property issues to be addressed if ideas began to be circulated outside the company.

"From an internal perspective [if the group used is within a company], there's no issue — ownership is very clear. In other models for participatory creation, there's usually a core organisation that ends up being owner of what comes out," said Fenn.

"People contribute for peer recognition, and then other people monetise it. This works because a lot of people want to have visibility," said Fenn.

Gartner also predicted that social-network analysis — where large amounts of data are collected and analysed to deduce social networks and patterns of behaviour — would become more widespread as a management tool within companies.

"There aren't a lot of good enterprise applications that look at employee connectivity networks within organisations, which would be useful when trying to optimise project teams," said Fenn.

Fenn also said that social-network analysis would be be useful as a marketing method.

"There are companies looking at bloggers who talk about every product and company under the sun, analysing them and looking at the connections between groups, and who are the opinion leaders. These leaders can then be targeted within that space," said Fenn.

Fenn recognised that for companies to avoid damage to their reputations, as happened to the NSA and the ongoing wiretapping case, firms need to overtly state when and why information is being gathered, to reassure people that their privacy is not being infringed.

"Marketing needs to make it clear what is happening. It comes down to what is valuable to the consumer. I use a supermarket loyalty card, and sell my privacy for a dollar off a chicken every weekend. People sell their privacy for that," said Fenn.

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