The muse of social software

The muse of social software

Summary: If you don't know JP Rangaswami, you should.  His Confused in Calcutta blog is must reading the 'new enterprise,'  how they should operate internally and relate to customers.

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TOPICS: Tech Industry
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rangaswami.jpgIf you don't know JP Rangaswami, you should.  His Confused in Calcutta blog is must reading the 'new enterprise,'  how they should operate internally and relate to customers. By day he is the chief of Alternative Market Models at the investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in London. JP follows in the Bob Dylan (be sure to check out his just released CD, "Modern Times") tradition, in this case exploring the folklore of the enterprise computing space, not always easily comprehended, pulling in references from everywhere, a poet and he don't know it, the muse of social software, but so right about how the pendulum is swinging toward empowered individuals. He believes that new business models should have a clear stance on values and ethics; allow relationships and collaboration to take place; intermediate to enable trust and fulfilment rather than channel towards lock-in; and recognize that customers want to create and co-create value rather than just receive.

In a recent post, JP lays out his taxonomy of enterprise reactions to social software, such as blogs, wikis, tags and other elements that are having democratizing effect, meaning less control from a central authority or lock-in.

Stalinists: Even though there is some doubt as to whether he actually ever said it, Stalin is often credited with saying that as long as people know there is an election, it’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes. A variation of this tends to operate in enterprises, where “power” is vested in the presentation-makers and minute-takers. What social software does is threaten this power.
Sadists: Learning to do things in an enterprise can be painful. Learning to do hard things can be very painful. I have worked in a company where, in order to save on stationery costs, they instituted a process whereby the “stationery cupboard” was only open on Tuesdays between 2pm and 4pm; if that wasn’t enough, no stationery could be ordered unless a form was filled in; and forms were only made available on Tuesday mornings between 10am and 10.30am. Learning how an organisation works is often like growing ear hair. There are no short cuts, it just takes a long time. And causes much suffering. What social software does is threaten to take away this familiar pain, leaving phantom limb sensations.
Stockholmers: Similar to hostages forming an attachment to their captor (despite the invidiousness of their position) there is an enterprise tendency to form deep-rooted and long-lasting relationships with lock-in vendors. This syndrome comes in two flavours: Temporary and Permanent. The Temporary one is less intense, fading when there is a change of management on the enterprise side. The Permanent version is a real feat of engineering, able to withstand multiple changes of management. Nobody gets fired for buying locks. What social software does is threaten to release the hostages from their secure jails.
Second-guessers: Any swarming or emergence effect needs to have a swarm in the first place. One place. With the plethora of options available in Web Too Many Oh, this creates a paradox of choice. Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to choose. Second-guessers can stultify attempts to derive value from social software, by fragmenting the enterprise base in time and space. Space because they ensure multiple options are taken up simultaneously guaranteeing there is no critical mass, no liquidity. Time because they engineer an enterprise change-of-horse-in-midstream, never actually allowing the liquidity to be acquired. What social software does is threaten to take away the freedom of the second-guessers.
Sewer-dwellers: The ploy here is to define the battleground for social software as infrastructure, as plumbing. Even though it shouldn’t be the case, most enterprise buyers treat infrastructure as overpriced, oversold and over. As soon as the argument shifts to sewerage, the enterprise immune system has no problem repelling all boarders. This is despite the fact that social software has minimal infrastructure costs. Why do sewer-dwellers do this? Because it’s their home. What social software does is threaten to take away where they live.
Silobites: These are people who live in silos. Their jobs are to ensure that as much stuff as possible is stored in the silo, the bigger the silo the better they feel. They are defined by the walls. What social software does is threaten to take down these walls, building small connectors between silos.

Look at the things threatened. Power. Familiarity. Security. Housing. Freedom. Enough said.

Breaking down the walls. Themes from the 1960s, which pervade JP's musings and musical taste. After the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the Internet came along, creating the digitial revolution. The vast majority of enterprises just haven't caught on yet, but the times, they are a changin', to quote the master:

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Topic: Tech Industry

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3 comments
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  • Tastes great; less and less...

    All manner of social ideals sound great until someone actually attempts to implement them. A few well-known ?isms? come quickly to mind (and how quickly the world forgets). Such ideals tickle the minds of all who are enlightened enough to comprehend their goodness.

    Web vX.xx is promiscuously more inviting. Unlike the Emperor?s New Clothes, it?s all fun, free, and for the good of the whole. Until someone, somewhere, when you least expect it (or perhaps who you most suspect) gets the power. Like the emperor?s clothes, however, the reality is thin. A vapor. Enter social software. Software for the people!

    Not to imply there is not a lot of it. There are yards, acres and hectares of this wonderful new cloth. See it! Touch it! Feel it! There has been nothing finer or more soft to the senses! But who will spin such yarn? Aye, no lack of fine weavers. No lack of weavers working broken looms, either.

    The crystal ball of customer support reveals a call from the not too distant future:

    IVR: ?You may speak your request or press pound-2-star to go directly to our new service menu.?
    Customer: ?Hello. My bank account is not balancing correctly and I have been overcharged on my online sales.?
    IVR: ?Press 5 to hear a message on how to update your personal service blog.?
    ***
    Customer Service Blog: ?Software and service quality is the responsibility of the global environment. It takes a village and the village deserves its share. Don?t be greedy like the capitalists of yesterday. Kumbayah. Take a cleansing breath. Take another. Lengthen your spine. Exhale. Visit the customer service wiki at villagecoffers.org to download, edit, and recompile your personal service profile. Be sure to rate yourself highly on your service response survey.?

    A grander future? Sadly, the effective customer experience is well-known today. Today, there remains a shred, thin, but a shred, of hope that the gods of technology will smile on the lowly customer by accepting responsibility and resolving the glitch.

    Woe to the unclean who shall never comprehend. Er, that would be the masses. The dense cattle who need leadership of sewer-dwellers, sadists, Stockholmers, second-guessers, and silobytes. Did I miss one? Yes, Stalin is already counting the votes and I have misplaced my soap.
    znewt
  • Gobbledegook

    If you could could write with more clarity and less compressed trendy-speak you'd get more people understanding what you write and more people commenting on your posts. I tried really hard to work through this one, but found it unrewarding at best, actually frustrating often.
    angemalaika@...
  • Nice, But About That Quote ...

    Nice article. I enjoyed it and appreciate your taxonomy of agendas. I have only one criticism, and it is a nit. To wit: if you wish to quote the master, ensure the quote is accurate.


    Come gather 'round people
    Wherever you roam
    And admit that the waters
    Around you have grown
    And accept it that soon
    You'll be drenched to the bone.
    If your time to you
    Is worth savin'
    [b]Then you better start swimmin'[/b]
    Or you'll sink like a stone
    For the times they are a-changin'.
    dacap06@...