Yesterday I was at a dinner on the sidelines of Enterprise 2.0 conference and during the dinner, everyone present was asked to offer their thoughts on what is happening in the space. Since my focus is more on Open Source and Cloud Computing, I was more of a bystander in this space than an expert. However, through my discussions with both vendors and buyers at the conference, I saw a familiar trend happening in the social computing space. I shared it with the few guests we had in the dinner and thought I will do a short post on it too. Also, it is a visible trend and I thought there should be a post that should prod CIOs to take note.
My take was
As it happened in the open source world and cloud computing, the enterprise adoption of social computing is also following a bottom-up approach
Even though it is trivial, I will expand a little bit more. When open source started seeing adoption on the business side, enterprises were wary of it because of many issues ranging from lack of understanding of the open source dynamics, licensing, liabilities, etc.. They were not even sure if it will fit in their workflow, with worries about possible disruptions and security issues. Slowly, but steadily, individual teams and departments deployed these open source software locally and found the value of open source software. Soon, the other teams and departments also saw the value and started using it. Many of the top managers were not even aware of something brewing inside their organization and were surprised when they found out. The high ROI of open source software and eventual maturity of the products/projects made it easy for them to adopt it on the organizational level. In short, this is the story of how open source software saw traction inside the enterprises.
The same trend is happening on the public cloud computing space too. Bernard Golden of Hyperstratus has written/spoken on this trend and he argues that many CIOs and other managers are completely unaware of the fact that developers in their organization are using public clouds inside their teams and departments. He also points to the similarity with Open Source adoption inside the enterprises.
This is exactly what is happening inside Social Computing space too. Whether it is Microblogging tools like Yammer or collaborative tools like Mindtouch, the trend is a bottom-up adoption. Smaller teams inside an organization tend to use these tools for their internal collaboration. Other teams and, even, other departments in the organizations see how these tools make collaboration easy and efficient. Seeing the value, they start using internally first and then across different teams / departments. Soon the managers find out what is happening behind their backs and realize the value in such tools. They then bring in the necessary governance and security methods and push it all through the organization.
The biggest reason for such bottom-up adoption with Open Source and Cloud Computing is the low barrier to adoption, a fact highlighted by Bernard Golden as well. With Open Source, the source code is available for users, mostly, at free of charge. In the case of public clouds, the cost is usually pennies and the employees inside an organization can easily swipe their credit card and get started. Such low barriers to adoption made sure that there was widespread adoption inside the enterprises without the managers having any inkling about it. The vendors behind social computing tools have also lowered the barriers to adoption with their freemium model and by offering a way for managers to gain control at a later stage. For example, with Yammer, users inside an organization can get started easily with their organizational email address for free and, later, the organization can take control of their users by paying a small fee. They can then use the dashboard to ensure that this tool is compliant with the organizational policies. This is the norm with many vendors in this space and the end result is a bottoms-up adoption of these tools inside the enterprises.
Whether CIOs like it or not, this shift is happening. The conventional wisdom among the managers is that such tools are a complete waste of their employee’s time. However, the bottom-up adoption is showing these managers that these tools increase the productivity many times and there are some emergent properties which the organization could never get from the traditional tools. It is time for CIOs to wake up and see this trend.