Everybody in social!

The 1999 US Gap 30 second TV spot above - 'everybody in vests!' - is now exquisitely unfashionable.

The 1999 US Gap 30 second TV spot above - 'everybody in vests!' - is now exquisitely unfashionable. Hi Tech is every bit as fashion driven as the clothing industry, but unlike the rag trade has an evangelical quality which can be quite amusing to those being propositioned within prospect businesses.

Computer technology's role in business is to streamline and simplify our processes to make us more efficient. No mystery there. Getting people engaged with new technology is always a challenge - people are set in their ways around how they like to do things, and we are typically fearful of anything we don't understand or where it's not clear what is in it for us.

In these tight economic times people are particularly worried about being made obsolete by technology, whether it is robots replacing humans or subject matter expert knowledge workers being instructed to do a brain dump in a company wiki.

If you have managed people you will have quickly seen how timeless human nature is around these issues - getting groups of people working well together gets exponentially more difficult the larger and more distributed the number of people.

The exponents of new ways of working in order to take advantage of broadband internet and mobile technologies tend to beat language to death in order to try and draw attention to their proposed ways of working, services and technologies. If you're working inside a company you are typically tasked with finding solutions to urgent problems, not hoovering up and regurgitating all the latest jargon as you hang out on Twitter.

Back in 2007 Forrester told us to 'Expect $4.6 Billion In Spending By 2013 As Large Companies Embrace Web 2.0' in their 'Global Enterprise Web 2.0 Market Forecast: 2007 To 2013' by G Oliver Young. Dion Hinchcliffe on his Enterprise Web 2.0 blog quotes IBM analyst Carol Gavin at IBM's Lotusphere 2011 turning heads recently

...when she underscored the vast size of the still somewhat nascent social collaboration market. It is at least $100 billion, and perhaps more.

Hinchcliffe quotes his Dachis Group colleagues Susan Scrupski & Dave Gray in making a case for the adoption of his employer's doctrine under the rubric 'social business', a descriptor which IBM are now also using to describe the roll out of their consulting and future Lotus collaborative technologies.

I'm agnostic on what you want to call initiatives to get people working together more efficiently - it's frequently an important topic of conversation within companies to speak in language which makes sense internally in the context of solving specific problems with appropriate environments, governance and goals - but I'm finding the Austin Powers villain Dr Evil-like '$100 billion dollars!' IBM line is a big turn off to those expected to contribute to it.

Nobody outside the technology fashion bubble cares about embracing technology companies or methodologies, and as I've said before adoption is for kittens and those we take pity on. The only thing people care about or are interested in buying are actionable, effective and enduring solutions to their problems. Forrester's $4.6 billion Enterprise Web 2.0 prediction was ambitious; the $100 billion market number is absurd, particularly when you read the social hype laden IBM sponsored Todd Watson blog post Hinchcliffe links to 'The Social Business Market’s So Big We Gotta Wear Shades'

We've been here before of course. It was 1999, the year of Austin Powers, Dr Evil and the height of the 1.0 bubble, and the year everyone was instructed to be in vests for the season by the GAP clothing store. (later that year we were instructed 'everybody in leather!')

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink: group think tends to take hold in social clusters of enthusiasts, particularly where there is money involved, as the dot com fiasco demonstrated.

Knowing when to get in on the social whirl is increasingly perceived as unclear and ever changing: you might wind up wearing last season's fashion and be known as the person who bought the vest when the leather was about to come into vogue.

Solid, pragmatic business thinking that delivers value never goes out of style even in hard times, and that is what those tasked with delivering greater enterprise efficiency are looking for.