Our columnist identifies the challenges which could derail social enterprise tools, as Cisco and IBM battle to turn businesses into Facebook-like collaboration environments. With counterpoint from JP Rangaswami, Murali Sitaram, and Ted Schadler.
Video Will Be A Tough Sell. Despite Cisco's determination to make video a central component of the brave new social enterprise, it's unclear whether organizations will bite right now, or whether it will be a slow, years-long road before serious uptake. (I suspect the latter.)
Here, the issue isn't simply cost. Currently, that's a factor, though more so when you're talking standalone telepresence than for desktop video. However, even if prices come down, it's not clear that workers want to see or be seen for every remote meeting.
I've repeatedly heard the example of an engineer pointing the camera at something he's working on, so as to show it to, say, a colleague in Bangalore (perhaps the Gulf of Mexico would be a more relevant example), so the two can better "get" what they're talking about. Point taken, but this example doesn't apply to a bunch of middle managers doing their weekly status meeting.
My personal sense is that as more bandwidth becomes available -- which is really Cisco's skin in this game, when you think about it -- the penetration of conferencing (as opposed to broadcast) video will slowly but surely advance. However, I believe we're talking a decade before widespread usage, as opposed to the pipe dream of a few years, which people some envision.
During my E2.0 panel, Cisco's Sitaram said: "We absolutely see it taking off. It's already happened, and by the way over time the price point will continue to fall." Forrester's Schadler called video a real "sleeper app."
E2.0 Tools Will Change The Way We Work In Unforeseen Ways. Change is good, but at the same time, there's a good and bad to all change. To my panelists, I posited the point that E2.0 tools would destroy the existing back-channels by which workers find out what's really going on.
Possibly this is an overblown fear. If information equals power, E2.0 tools will empower more people by facilitating the connections you would currently make if only you could -- to put a non-visual twist on E2.0 guru's Andrew McAfee's concentric rings of connections for knowledge workers.
At the same time, the upper hierarchies will likely preserve some of their juice by holding the most valuable info back from the brave, new transparent world.
Mostly, the shift into E2.0 overdrive will revolve around negotiating the loss of control of current business processes, which are enforced by today's rather one-dimensional software environments (eg., e-mail.)
Here are my panelists on this:
Rangaswami: "When you empower the edge, you have no idea of what to expect."
Sitaram: "Yes, each individual is going to try to use these tools in different ways. They need to be personalized. We are not going to try to enforce a way of work."
Schadler: "Employees know what to do. IT, in terms of enabling, has to develop a new skill."