Were at a point where business has become very sensitive to the changes in behavior occurring on the consumption side of information management, and I hear few executives argue against the sensibility of keeping up with the times.
Analysts and consultants are also telling us that the workplace needs to catch up with the social consumer, even though we know instinctively that our working lives are much more process and transaction oriented than our behavior at home. Need proof? Without laying odds Ill bet that just about every information worker in a cubicle knows exactly when they are working and when they are surfing.
So it makes me wonder that a new strategy is to align the objectives of the social market with those of the business when a problem awaits in presuming that the objectives of the consumer and the business are the same thing.
I started writing about the war between consumer Internet savvy and corporate branding in 2000 when B2B networks were out to commoditize every product on the market. Those eMarket entrepreneurs ridiculed business processes and tools as clunky and out of date.
For better or worse weve all witnessed the passage of obsolete technologies, or the appearance thereof. I recall how frustrating it was to the Y2K eCommerce moguls that nobody managed to kill fax machines, mainframe computers or 1980s electronic data interchange (EDI) transaction protocols.
Even today, capitalism would literally grind to a halt without EDI because you cant build a car or a washing machine without it. EDI reigns as the bulletproof transaction equivalent of Air Force B-52s that from the 1950s to today have been the fallback for the really big missions. All these technologies, mainframes, fax etc. have been upgraded but not replaced because they remain prime mechanisms of commerce. There are a lot of reasons the B2B bubble blew, but that's another story.
Those of us whose jobs revolve around information also have a standard for the tools that make up our workspace and there is a perfectly good reason for this. The tools we choose are the ones we rely upon daily to manage our duties and thus put bread on the table. Any of us would be hesitant to accept an uncertain substitute for a tool we count on to make a living.
We also respect that standardization of applications and infrastructure is about more than cutting costs and IT workload and that business has discovered the need for centralized or federated information management for unified data, collaboration, productivity and even business continuity in an era of layoffs. Thats how proven technology (hopefully) rolls down from IT and how our personal workarounds adjust.
In my working day, Ill admit some of my own tools are pretty primitive: an analog cassette recorder/transcribing machine I use for interviews (backed up by a tinny digital recorder just in case); an Arrow stapler that immensely helps file management for stories I am gathering notes on or writing; and a red pen, which no editor can be without.
I think Ill be allowed to keep these tools as long as what I produce ends up in standardized form, but I do need help in other areas. My primary transaction systems are the telephone and email correspondence, and my Exchange file management frankly stinks. I have project and content folders and subfolders, including one called tomorrow, which of course never arrives. Its a good case for making better use of my companys CRM solution, even though that requires some heavy lifting also.
Social networking plays a role in my day, mainly through this blog which lets readers sound off centrally and circumvents a bit of email. I Twitter, mostly to keep tabs on interesting people and use LinkedIn to maintain a network of peers. Facebook and MySpace so far have no part in my working day. Immersive Internet environments and avatars based on gaming and role-playing technology? Maybe that will help later, but right now Im happy to let pioneers take the arrows in the back.
What would I like? As I mentioned, a better file and bookmark management system with some workflow would be great. And Id like very much to have GoogleVoice if it ever comes to market or an equivalent that lets me read my voicemail. That would help me separate the pitches from the people I really want to talk to from the ones who leave windy messages with no accompanying email.
What has improved my working day? Id point to some Web apps and powerful search services on the Internet, but mostly to a good Web analytics tool that lets me study where our readers are coming from, what they are looking for and what they are not interested in, up to and including this blog. During working hours, I am a service provider, not a social consumer, even if I spend a good bit of time trying to think like one.
It doesnt make me a luddite to revert to the tools that get the job done. There are some very interesting, even fascinating developments, including mashups, desktop integration and more intuitive filing and retrieval systems that are going to change our working lives. That could happen soon or even sooner than people like me think, but only when we're sure theyre dependably better than what we use now to earn a buck.
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