I was amazed a couple weeks ago when a younger coworker engaged in a conversation (um… debate) about whether Facebook was a viable business tool. Now, somehow I got baited into this discussion, probably on a quest to figure out why a Gen Y type would think Facebook didn’t belong behind the firewall.
During the conversation, I started to identify what was really going on. The problem wasn’t the tool (I knew this going into it), but again was perception. You see, the corporate information technology industry has done the same thing as every other professional industry. They’ve put blinders on and have had years and healthy budgets to define what “professional” conduct looks like. Moreover, because they can point to years of supposed successes in fighting (gasp!) antivirus, malware, and (more realistically) external facing security vulnerabilities, they have the gravitas within organizations to make (dictate) business policies in the boardroom.
Through all of this, the real needs of the business get molded and formed into highly structured processes that can more easily be measured or manipulated. Of course, I have to admit these methods allow businesses to conform to compliance and regulatory requirements more easily – an unfortunate reality. Because everything is so structured, the perception is that everything in business needs to be as organized and controlled. The problem is that communication is not the same thing as information.
Communication needs to happen quickly, getting to the right person at the right time to make a difference. This need is impeded by too much structure, too much process. You can see that already on the marketing & PR side of social media. The traditional release isn’t as powerful as it once was (though it hasn’t been negated either) because of the nimble adaptability of online sharing tools. This is one of many places where IT simply gets it wrong. The idea that communication and the sharing of ideas needs to be managed is a sure sign that the organization is fighting itself.
So what was the outcome of that conversation with my coworker? He still thinks Facebook isn’t a viable business tool. What it really boils down to is that he didn’t like the idea that his “professional” life could so easily collide with his “personal” life, that people could actually discover he had fun in college. Heck, who didn’t?
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