One key lesson for enterprise IT is that minimally structured apps allow users to maximize personal expression. MySpace -- and similar sites such as Facebook (for college students) and LinkedIn (for career professionals) -- facilitates community building by giving users a blank stage on which to perform, plus a way to develop an audience via “friends” links. Allowing employees greater latitude in personalizing and defining the terms and parameters of their collaboration platform will greatly increase their participation in such initiatives.
But another lesson MySpace has to offer is that as social communities grow, they become less cohesive and it’s more challenging to police them and make IT policy decisions that please everyone. MySpace has weathered criticism, for example, for providing a venue for allegedly criminal activity, ranging from copyright violation to identity theft to child-safety issues. Facebook ran into a privacy firestorm when it launched News Feed, an alert system that allows users to monitor friends’ blog pages for personal news events -- such as romantic breakups.
But when it comes to balancing buy-in and control, sites that target and tailor their platforms to discrete domains are among the most successful. Honing the focus and delivering functionality suited to the particular forum and participants ensure a vibrant forum for collaboration without requiring an undue amount of policy management. After all, self-perception and reputation are powerful motivating factors for building worthwhile relationships -- whether the setting is social or corporate.
-- David L. Margulius
Segway Human Transporter
When it comes to tech deployments, cool can take you only so far. Sure, cool can cement success in an app that gives people something they want or know they need, but coolness alone can’t make a technology succeed.
Take the Segway Human Transporter: cool factor 11, the most frisson fabricated for any product this millennium. But it has sold units in the tens of thousands instead of the millions mainly because it was introduced into a system without the requisite infrastructure in place to fuel its success.
The market for automobiles caught fire in part because a smoothed road system had already been laid down for bicycles in the 1880s. The Segway, on the other hand, is seen as dangerous to pedestrians (it goes three times walkers’ rate on sidewalks) and its rider (it tops out at half the cruising speed of vehicles on roads). And because the finely tuned technology -- and marketing -- inspired grandiose investor expectations, it needed to achieve mass adoption quickly, as opposed to the successful diffusion of bicycles and then autos, both of which proliferated on a handcrafted basis with stochastic evolution and mass extinctions.
IT would do well to remember the abundance of great (and cool) technologies that didn’t have the social infrastructure to catch on quickly. Lots of ERP implementations trickled out simply because documentation used vocabulary that didn’t match the buyers’. And if you roll out a time-keeping or SFA system, for example, that uses an entirely different workflow from legacy processes without investing in change management, it’ll get nothing more than a dead-rat bounce.