Ever since I joined the company, I’ve been finding myself answering the same question over and over. “Why did you go inside?”
Depending on who’s asking the question, it can mean, “why are you giving up consulting, and going inside a company”? Or it could mean, “why are you going to the ‘private’ side of social media after so many years focusing on the ‘public’ side.”
Truth is that I haven’t exactly given up consulting. Helping to develop BroadVision’s professional services strategy (e.g., Clearvale SecondFloor) squarely keeps me in that world. Nor have I been spending all my time on the public side of social media. At least half my social media engagements as a consultant were on projects that could have been called Enterprise 2.0. I didn’t call them that, but I could have.
But the “inside” question resonates on both levels for me — I truly wanted to go inside a company, and lately I’ve been thinking that the in side of social media is the place to me. There are at least three reasons:
1. The workplace is the new social place. There was a time — not too long ago — when the Web2 world began to recognize that marketing was moving to the edge of the network. Jeremiah Owyang was a big proponent of that idea, and it got a lot of attention. And it made sense — with the rise of social media, people were making their own media, creating and finding their own places, so marketers had to go where people go. Practical implications here. One: it was no longer enough to create your own place (the corporate Web site). Suddenly, you needed a strategy to connect with people in other places … and a huge market — consultants, practitioners, adopters, complainers — kicked in. But something happened along the way. Folks began to recognize that the digital/social workplace was a good place to connect from and to the edge of the network. After all, a giant swath of people on social networks spend big chunks of time each day jumping back and forth from their enterprise desktop apps to their non-enterprise social networking apps. The big trend in enterprise 2.0 these days? Integrating the edge (social media applications) into the enterprise social network. In other words, the edge is now inside. The preferred way to connect with places outside the enterprise is to integrate with platforms inside the enterprise.
2. The workplace is where things get done. And there’s an app for that. It’s called enterprise software. Another big trend? The minituarization and integration of enterprise apps into the enterprise social network. It’s probably the most interesting conversation in the market today, and I’d argue that it is not overhyped. If you accept the premise that the digital/social workplace is the place to be, then it follows that enterprise apps — which theoretically can have a far bigger audience in social environments — will need to be there, too. Already a lot of activity in this area (search the following: Enterprise 2.0 and workflow and business processes — you’ll find lots to read), and we (my company) intend to make this a priority.
3. The inside view cares about things like privacy and security — things that are sometimes disincentives for public social networks. But they matter to every single person on the planet. The Facebook privacy debacle taught us at least one thing: for networks like Facebook, privacy features can certainly be a disincentive — it can interrupt the torrid pace of network growth. But for social media companies toiling on the inside, it had better be in their DNA to care about these things. And if it’s not in their DNA, they had better hire for it (and from the looks of recent hires at Enterprise 2.0 companies, this appears to already be happening). That will be good for everyone, inside and outside the enterprise. But from I sit, I can already see that the action — and innovation — will be inside/out. Happy to be here, and I’ll be sharing more about what we are doing as we move along that path.