Putting the suit on Social Computing

I have previously written about the application of Web2.0 technologies to enterprise problems at a general level.

In the past, I have taken the view that the Web2.0 technologies may be of interest, but the enterprise application of the 'social computing' side of Web2.0 was still very immature: the general value of collaboration was clear but how it would be implemented and which pressing business problems it addressed were not.

This lack of maturity was reinforced by fighting talk from some Enterprise 2.0 proponents about changing the way enterprises work by up-ending hierarchies and claiming that when the "facebook generation" moves into the workforce all will be changed.

However, I think that the concept is now maturing as can be seen from announcements from both BEA and more recently Progress around what BEA calls Enterprise Social Computing and Progress calls Socially Oriented Architectures.

What is promising is that both announcements focus on the application of social computing (and it's ability to enable fluid communication and information sharing) to solve business problems.

In the case of ESC (an acronyn to make any tech marketeer smile), the application is to the area of process improvement.

As my colleague, Steve Craggs explains in his new insight on ESC and SOA (which is free to download at the moment!):

"If a company can understand a little more about how employees are solving their day-to-day work-related problems, it should become possible to establish best practices or carry out training to improve employee performance. The traditional approach to solving this problem is to engage an external business process re-engineering expert. However, these experts are both expensive and disruptive. In many cases, the best practice expertise is already there—it is just that it is un-communicated, locked in the heads of one or more expert employees."

And of course, it isn't a huge leap to realize that SOA is a fertile place to start using such an approach - as this requires a high degree of communications across organizational boundaries and involves tech-friendly staff more likely to adopt new concepts like ESC.