Making Social Networking Work for IT

HP looks to make social networking a benefit to IT rather than a thorn in its side

"While the single source model continues to be pushed in the enterprise computing market, HP announced yesterday a focus on taking their Converged Infrastructure offering into the SMB space. Combining HP server and networking hardware solutions with software from Microsoft and Citrix, HP is offering what is basically a turnkey datacenter solution for the small and medium-size business."

Change the wording a bit and this could be just about any technology collaboration announcement from the last few years. Most of the coverage of the announcement that I've seen focuses on the hardware software collaboration and points out that this is likely to be HPs response to the Cisco / VMware / EMC collaboration that Cisco launched in a direct shot at HPs business.

But the far more interesting part of the announcement, and the one with the greatest potential for long term impact on the business of IT, is the inclusion of social networking specifically for IT professionals as a major part of the initiative.  With the generally negative attitude that IT takes towards social networking, the question is, will HP be able to change that impression.

They're starting with their joint venture with Intel, the Small Biz Nation community group run through the business social networking site LinkedIn. This broad based community group, which draws from all types of businesses, not just IT, will give users a chance to interact with people who are potentially peers with useful information, customers who can be made aware of member's business offerings, and vendors who offer suitable services that may be found useful. With a goal of the free sharing of information, problems and solutions, HP hopes that this type of social interaction will benefit IT and, specifically, users of their converged infrastructure solutions.

If they can make the LinkedIn community an active place for the exchange of ideas and information HP achieves success in two ways; the first is that they reduce their own internal support costs for these customers. By enabling a "birds of a feather" type relationship in the group, users of the HP solutions will go first to these groups to find answers to problems they encounter. If the problem is sufficiently common, the answer will be there in the archives of the group of as a quick answer from another community member who has solved the problem and wants to talk about it. Second, they effectively guerrilla market their converged infrastructure SMB solutions to other potential customers who may be members of the community for other reasons.

Along with Small Biz Nation, HP is launching 48Upper, their social collaborative IT management site. HP appears to believe that it is critical to incorporate social networking as a component of the IT process because current and future generations of IT professionals will have grown up using social networking as a component of their lives and will expect to use it as part of their business process. While I find that HP's choice of acronym for the process (SoCool-IT) is incredibly trite, the concept itself is a sound one. 48Upper is a new site, so there is little information there at present; only time will tell if this approach will be a successful one for HP.