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Social media and 'green': two fashion trends to avoid

I love the ideas behind social media and the move towards all things green but if you want evidence our industry is fashion driven then look no further than John Furrier's 'so what?' thumbs down to Delicious2.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

I love the ideas behind social media and the move towards all things green but if you want evidence our industry is fashion driven then look no further than John Furrier's 'so what?' thumbs down to Delicious2. Even so, sooner or later, technology has to deliver and it is a constant source of amusement that this wonderful industry of ours seems always to be chasing the elusive pot of gold tied to whatever the fashion moment is focused upon. Take social media:

In Groundswell, the authors enthusiastically declare that:

Toward the end of 2004,three years into Bob’s tenure at GM,things were going poorly.The stock was in free fall.Customers weren’t warming to the new product lines,and neither were the auto critics who traditionally make pronouncements on what’s hot in the auto business.

Bob—one of GM’s best communicators, a dynamic, articulate leader who is passionate about products—wasn’t getting his message across. Bob needed a way to speak directly to the people who were still open to GM’s message.So as the auto show approached in January 2005, he decided he wasn’t too old—and GM wasn’t too stodgy—to try something new.Bob started a blog called FastLane (you can read it at fastlane.gmblogs.com). Time from decision to launch: three weeks. Pretty amazing for an old-line Detroit automaker.

The first entries were a bit stiff—not at all like most of the bloggers out there. But Bob’s first post got 121 comments from readers.

People wanted to hear what GM was saying.

Quick - sign me up. But hang on a moment. I just saw Paul Kedrosky's analysis of how:

GM has only managed to wipe out its profits back to the mid-1980s. Here are GM cumulative "earnings" for the two periods:

  • 2007-present:  -$57,483b
  • 1985-2006: $59,598b

Not bad, however. GM did manage to wipe out 22 years of results in a mere seven months.

Social media isn't necessarily responsible and as the Groundswell mavens are quick to point out:

FastLane hasn’t revolutionized GM. It hasn’t changed the competitive dynamics with Japanese automakers or turned the auto industry’s troublesome dealer channel into pussycats. But it has revolutionized the way GM communicates.

Well that really is going to win plaudits with shareholders and customers. Right? Wrong.

Then there's all things green. Dell is making a noise with its Hybrid range of desktops, noting they use 70% less power than ??? and now come with eco friendly packaging. I am overjoyed, especially with the new colors that help me color coordinate my office. But are they hybrid? Do they run on solar power as well as have diesel generator backup? Doesn't look like it. Oh well - more marketing spin I suppose. While we're at it, let's not forget Dell's MyWay, it's customer portal or Dell Community Forums which I'm told are a rip roaring success.

But quick - check out Dell's last 10-Q filing. Falling gross margins, falling operating profits. Ugh! Or how about Hugh MacLeod's musings on what needs to happen at Dell.

As I've said many times before, if it ain't contributing to the bottom line then it ain't going to get the CIO's attention. Unless required expenditure is below departmental budget levels and can creep in without giving the CIO a heart attack. If you really want to know what's making a difference in enterprise land then check out the boring stuff like virtualization, sensor deployment, data center consolidation, predictive analytics. Function follows form may be a great design idea but in business function follows money. First and last.

[With apologies to all those who are making the case for social media/computing and all things green.]

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