I’m from Corporate IT, and I’m here to help you innovate

Dennis McDonald, in “Needed: Enterprise Strategies for Innovation, Content Management, and Social Media Infrastructure,” argues for situating social media as part of your Enterprise infrastructure:

The more I think about how processes like innovation management can stretch across and into all aspects of an organization, the more it reinforce my strong belief that social networking and social media tools within an organization need to be thought of as part of the overall communication and information management infrastructure. That is, such tools should be universally available to all so that, when new groups and projects form there are no artificial barriers raised to interconnection and integration.

While I’m in perfect agreement about having “such tools . . . universally available to all” and that it is desirable to have “no artificial barriers raised to interconnection and integration,” I think we’re missing something if the only way we can imagine providing “the needed tools to workers where and when they need them” is to buy an enterprise license to one platform or vendor to bind them all. (McDonald’s example of a vendor who gets it is IBM and their recent product introductions).

If each small, mobile, edge-located, independent innovative project team leverages open standards and open source frameworks, getting integration across those tools should not be seen as a barrier.

Rather than trying to find the right solution for all of the enterprise, which heads back down the same path that lead users to frustration with corporate IT in the first place, shouldn’t we be trying to enable each team to use the tools they find most valuable, and then working to find the necessary points of integration?

Of course one can imagine nightmare scenarios in either centralized or loosely federated architectures, but I think enterprises right now should worry more about their proprietary, commercially licensed, centrally controlled infrastructure getting in the way of innovation than they should in what McDonald describes as the “incompatibilities, roadblocks, and speedbumps” which might result from a start small approach, and could “undermine the true potential of social media and social networking within an organization.”


  1. Thank you for the feedback!

    I do question your statement “I think we’re missing something if the only way we can imagine providing ‘the needed tools to workers where and when they need them’ is to buy an enterprise license to one platform or vendor to bind them all.” [I like the Ring reference, by the way.]

    Aside from the fact that I did not make such a statement, I do think that, given today’s technology and standards, it should NOT be necessary to require a “single solution” for social networking and collaboration. There should be ways to ensure an infrastructure of different systems can, in fact, communicate, especially across the dreaded “departmental silo” barriers.

    Still, there are situations where an enterprise strategy SHOULD include looking at a universal solution as opposed to a federation, but this will differ from organization to organization. And, to be realistic, there are organizations that will gravitate towards a universal solution that works across different departments, just as a single email protocol is usually smiled upon.

    I can’t imagine such decisions being made without involvement of the IT department, but I suppose that’s possible.

  2. You’re right, of course – you didn’t say any such thing. I guess I was reacting more to the press attention Lotus Sphere has gotten in general this year, and Lotus Connections in particular.

    I think we’re in violent agreement on the need to have an infrastructure that appropriately balances central control (standardization) and loose innovation at the edges (federation).

Comments are closed.