JP Rangaswami has been opining on ways in which Facebook could open up to business applications. JP's a smart and deep thinker but I'm not sure these all work out the way he imagines. He suggests:
Collaborative filtering to allow the sharing of patterns: people who read A also read B; people who met A also met B; even people whose career moves were ... They can be used for staff induction and role-based training. For succession planning. For career development. For informing and briefing deputies and interim backfills; for dealing with unplanned absences.
This is an extension of the talent management application idea previously suggested and which I can see delivering significant value over time.
Rating processes that actually mean something: rating the usefulness of an e-mail reply; of advice given; of a person’s skillset or competence; of suitability for membership of a specific professional community; of the fit-for-purpose-ness of a particular product or service. Rating processes that are continuous rather than discrete and irregular snapshots; rating processes that are open and transparent rather than cloak-and-dagger stab-in-the-back; rating processes that are across the enterprise and beyond it, to include partners and customers. True 360 degrees.
It's a nice idea but I am skeptical of the utility of rating systems. Too often, they seem to only reflect the polarisation of views that a person already holds rather than serving as an objective measure.
Recommendation processes that are both push as well as pull. Unsolicited advice. A response to a query. The creation of active and kept-up-to-date and valuable FAQ sites. [It has always been my belief that an FAQ site is only as good as its update frequency and usage population].
I don't see anything here that's radically different to that which already exists in the world of FAQs. I am seeing cases where wikis are being used so why would I need Facebook except as a notification system.
From tacit knowledge to tacit problem-solving: If I take the recommendation process one step further, I can visualise an environment where Person A responds to a question by Person B, where that advice (and its context) is flashed across my News Feed, where I read it. And in the process of reading it, I solve a problem I didn’t even know I had.
I have previously written that Twitter already provides that potential. I'm not convinced I'd necessarily wish to broadcast a response but may well wish to send a private message. In JPs scenario, there's no accounting for information overload. However, a case can be made for developing a capture mechanism that is matched to profiles as a way of distributing to like minded people. Facebook update notifications are available using Mac Face so I don't necessarily need a news feed.
Wisdom-of-crowds and Prediction Markets: Checking the health of strategic enterprise programmes, projects, even transformation initiatives. Being able to get short-sharp votes on key subjects, just to take the pulse of the institution. Testing morale. Validating quality of communications and their usefulness. Even assessing the likelihood of project success or failure, whether measured in time, cost or quality.
This is one of the weakest arguments. Prediction markets have been shown to generate value at Google but I'm not convinced that you can generalize this idea into every business. Google has created a specific kind of culture that encourages this way of assessing competing projects. It requires a significant change in management style and, as we already know, change management is an inexact and unpredictable science. In many companies it would represent a 180 degree turn and experience suggests that personnel are suspicious of management's motives in these circumstances. Then there is the issue of whether 'wisdom of crowds' thinking can be realistically applied in large organizations. I've not yet seen the evidence to suggest that is true. However, knowledge based environments, especially among professional organizations, is taking a new direction where information sharing is the platform upon which knowledge is built. That's a similar though different tack and one which I can see organizations embracing as a way forward.