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11/13/2012
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E2 Innovate Keynoters: Set IT Free

Google CIO Ben Fried evangelizes the value of employee technology choice, while IDC's Michael Fauscette sees a future in which all enterprise systems will be social.

The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012
The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Keynote speakers at the E2 Innovate conference Tuesday welcomed attendees with the message that the world is changing, and IT needs to change with it.

Google CIO Ben Fried talked about trends that are "completely disrupting and turning upside-down the world of technology." Michael Fauscette, group VP of software business solutions at the market analysis firm IDC, said our world is going through "a major transformation from a business perspective, a technology perspective and a social perspective."

The trends they were talking about include social, mobile, cloud and consumer technologies, which combined are adding up to more than the sum of their parts. E2 Innovate is a conference from InformationWeek's parent company, UBM, and was formerly known as Enterprise 2.0. This week's event recognizes that the social collaboration technologies associated with that "enterprise 2.0" term are part of something bigger.

Fauscette said what we're going through is as profound as our society's transition from a rural agrarian society to an industrial one based around cities. The changes are being driven by network connectivity and the rise of the cloud, as well as the advent of online culture. "I have friends I share with -- probably more so than friends I've known for 30 years -- and yet we've never met face to face. But I share things with them, talk with them, every day, online."

Those same changes are filtering through to how we do business. Fauscette said the enterprise social networking technologies currently in vogue are incomplete, but as they become more embedded in the systems where people get work done they will become important as a transitional vehicle. Because legacy systems that meet a company's business requirements won't quickly be replaced by more modern cloud software, they will need to be supplemented with apps that make them friendlier and more useful. Social software can help us address ad hoc processes -- the 80% of work we do that's not captured in transactional systems -- and make better decisions, he said.

"By 2020, we will get to the point where all apps are social and support decisions. We won't talk about social software. Every application is a system of relationships because we have to connect with people to get things done," Fauscette predicted. The software environment will also become more context aware, giving the information we need when we need it and more effectively filtering out distractions, he said. At the same time, he predicted a "long, slow transition" to these new platforms.

Google's Fried said the changes he is dealing with are driven by "the rise of a tech savvy, Internet savvy workforce, where people have opinions about technology prior to ever entering the workforce." Workers like that tend to know what tools and technologies they need to be productive, and it's best not to stand in their way, Fried said.

"The social contract that has defined IT's relationships with users has to change," Fried said. The IT impetus for standardization is too much of a "patriarchy," he said. "We're treating them like children. Our job is not to standardize and make choices for them but to empower them."

Google employees can choose whether they want to work on a Windows PC, a Mac or a Linux computer, and they can choose what productivity software they want loaded onto it -- even if Google Apps isn't their first choice. They also can sign out whatever peripherals they want for their computers from equipment racks located around the corporate campus. Users get a "technology bill," not because they have to pay it but to give them an idea of what their technology choices cost and how they compare to their peers by that measure.

"We find that if you explain it, and the impact of the decision, they will do the right thing," Fried said. While offering such a range of choices may sound expensive, he said it's actually not -- at least not if you invest in top-flight technical support personnel the way Google does.

One way to empower people is with collaboration technology, Fried said. "The most important thing in the enterprise is to allow people to work together."

Of course, Google has a selfish interest in promoting the cloud and collaborative computing, but Fried said IT professionals must understand their importance. "The enterprise software game is a racket, and we are the suckers," he said. To deploy on-premises technology is to be trapped into a never-ending cycle of hardware and software upgrades, he said. As a result, "CIOs have discovered that they actually don't want new software in their environments because it bloats their costs" and as a result people who should be driving innovation are becoming "forces of conservatism," he said.

Changing that is the real benefit of moving software to the cloud, Fried said.

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard and facebook.com/thebyard

The business world is changing. Is your company ready? E2 Innovate, formerly Enterprise 2.0, is the only event of its kind, bringing strategic business professionals together with industry influencers and next-gen enterprise technologies. Register for E2 Innovate Conference & Expo today and save $200 on current pricing or get a free expo pass. Nov. 12-15, 2012, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Silicon Valley.

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