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Enterprise 2.0: Uncomfortable Truths About Big Data

Think big data analysis is making your professional expertise less valuable? In some ways, you're right, MIT's Andrew McAfee said Wednesday at the Enterprise 2.0 conference.
However, he said, this does not mean we should fight this sort of change or smash machines in a Luddite-like response. Instead, he said, people need to race with the machines, even if they are playing new roles.

McAfee points to FoldIt, an online effort that uses crowdsourced puzzles to help crack questions around scientific research involving protein folding. The research will be targeted at medical problems including HIV, Alzheimer's, and cancer research that depend on new knowledge about human proteins. It turns out that people are still better at solving protein-folding puzzles, he said.

One piece of good news: Your chances of surviving a round of layoffs go up as your use of social goes up, an MIT colleague's research concluded, McAfee said.

But for global footwear brand Nike, social and consumer technologies have also driven home some uncomfortable truths about old IT models and the value of IT staffers, Nike's Art King told the Enterprise 2.0 audience. Nike's app deployment strategy to its internal customers is changing from push to pull, said King, who is global infrastructure architect lead and a futurist for Nike (with the colorful sneakers to prove it).

This move to pull acknowledges three realities, he said. First, users want to pick apps now, not have apps pushed from IT. This means IT recommends apps, instead of choosing them. And at Nike, users often look for an answer to a problem on the wiki, instead of calling IT support. Or, users look to people they know who are regarded as experts.

"We've observed a tribal effect, where friends take care of friends," King said. This means IT has less value, he observed.

Examples like this show how IT can become disconnected from business customers, King said. "We need more right brain thinking in our organization," he said.

New apps promise to inject social features across entire workflows, raising new problems for IT. In the new, all-digital Social Networking issue of InformationWeek, find out how companies are making social networking part of the way their employees work. Also in this issue: How to better manage your video data. (Free with registration.)