Monday, April 12, 2010

Enterprise IT plus social media plus cloud computing equals the future

Two developments last week really solidified for me the collision course between social media concepts and traditional enterprise IT. This is by no means a train wreck, but rather a productive, value-add combination that is sure to make IT departments more responsive to the needs of the businesses and the customers they mutually support.

First, IT consultancy Hinchcliffe & Co. was acquired by Dachis Group. This mashes up Dachis's "social business design" professional services offerings with Hinchcliffe's Enterprise 2.0 architecture, methods and implementations.

The merger shows that social media-enabled business activities need the full involvement of core IT, and that IT has a new and increasingly important role in designing how corporations will find, reach, connect to and service their customers, partners, suppliers -- and the various communities that surround them all.

Terms of the sale for both of the privately held firms was not disclosed, but Hinchcliffe founder and Dion Hinchcliffe told me he'll be helping Dachis Group harness the efficiencies and reach of social media through Enterprise 2.0 for global 2000 corporations.

As he sees it (and I agree), the ability for IT to use rich Internet application technologies, SaaS, cloud, SOA, business intelligence, social-media driven end-user meta data -- all leveraged via SOA integrated, governed and automated business processes -- are changing the nature of business. Companies now know that they can (and should) do business differently, but they don't yet know how to pull all the services and parts together to do it. Same for marketing execs.

Time for IT and marketing to get to know each other better. IT organizations and Enterprise 2.0 methods are increasingly aligned to integrate and leverage the traditional IT strengths with the best of the web, social and marketing. Doing an end-run around IT for advanced marketing is a stop-gap measure, the real solution is bringing IT and web/social/marketing together.

You can't have meaningful and scalable social business strategy at global 2000 firms without the firm hand of IT, newly endowed with modern architectures and tools, on the tiller. A firm like Dion's makes that essential but so far rare connection between the IT culture and the social media marketing pioneers.

"This gets us poised for what happens next: The coming half-decade is going to be a tremendously important and exciting one in the business world as organizations look to fundamentally retool for the 21st century, an era that has quite different expectations and requirements around business and how it gets done," said Hinchcliffe.

The Dachis Group, founded by Jeff Dachis (former Razorfish CEO) in 2008 and well-funded by Austin Ventures, is growing quickly and doing considerable acquiring, including Headshift Ltd. last year. Dion will join as Dachis as senior engagement manager, reporting to Peter Kim, managing director of North American operations.

Another indication of this mega mashup between technology and social media: Salesforce.com's expansion of the private beta testing of its Salesforce Chatter, a Facebook-style social networking platform for enterprises and SMBs. And now AppExchange 2, the next generation of Salesforce's enterprise app storefront, will includes a "ChatterExchange" for social networking business apps.

I saw a demo of Chatter last month at Salesforce headquarters is San Francisco. It has the potential to do what Google Wave does only better, and more targeted as business functions. If I were Lotus, I'd be concerned.

From all this I see a business world soon that no longer begins and ends its days in an email in-box, or portal, but on the "wall" of precisely filtered flow that defines the business process through a social interactions lens, and not a back-office application interface. And that wall can be easily adjusted based on the users activities, policies, etc. Just about anything can be added, or not.

I'm not alone in this vision, of course. Salesforce last week in a New York press conference rolled out "Cloud 2," which has enterprise apps behaving like Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

[Incidentally, my old Gillmor Gang cohort and founder, Steve Gillmor, today joins Salesforce.com after leaping and hopping from a rag tag bunch of podcast and blog sites. Congrats, Steve.]

Yep, social networking meets the enterprise. Kind of like chocolate and peanut butter.