I’ve spent much of my career focused on business process best practices.   In particular, I’ve spent considerable time working with professional service organizations (PSOs) in their efforts to implement practice management support systems.  Historically, this involves a whole lot of time and energy being spent on selection and deployment of authoritative systems of record.  The intent here is to architect technology in support of data–what data do we need to track, where do we store the data, how do we access and share the data, etc.  These systems are critical in providing the information needed to make rationale business decisions.  With the wonderful assortment of relational databases, document repositories, and search engines available today, its likely we already have in place those systems that allow us to turn information into knowledge.  Building this foundation allows us to institute best practices–automating routine activities, creating shareable sources of  information, and bringing cost efficiencies into our daily processes.

Even with all this shareable data at hand the question still remains–how do we best connect people in ways that allow them to build consensus and make business decisions? If we just worked by ourselves, this wouldn’t be an issue.  All we would need is access to our systems of record.  But if we need to interact with others to educate and analyze, our ability to communicate, collaborate and share knowledge is all the more important.  This is why companies are slowly shifting focus to systems of engagement.  According to the AIIM White Paper, Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT by Geoffrey Moore (Jan., 2011), “there is a fundamental revolution underway in enterprise IT brought about by ubiquitous Internet access, the proliferation of powerful mobile computing devices, and the consumerization of IT.”

Taking into account the use and convergence of SaaS computing solutions, smartphones, tablets and social media, there is today both greater capabilities and expectations for a comprehensive and integrated approach to communications and collaboration.  Like all technology, many of the tools already at our disposal are underutilized or misused.  Many corporations see the use of these new technologies as consumer driven and are questioning there application in a business environment.  Often, there is confusion between social media and social business.

To once again quote Moore, Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT (Jan., 2011):

“What is transpiring is momentous, nothing less than the planet wiring itself a new nervous system. If your organization is not linked into this nervous system, you will be hard pressed to participate in the planet’s future. To be more specific, amidst the texting and Twittering and Facebooking of a generation of digital natives, the fundamentals of next-generation communication and collaboration are being worked out. For them, it is clear, there is no going back. So at minimum, if you expect these folks to be your customers, your employees, and your citizens (and, frankly, where else could you look?), then you need to apply THEIR expectations to the next generation of enterprise IT systems. But of far more immediate importance is how much productivity gains businesses and governments are you leaving on the table by not following the next generation’s lead.”

So, how do we make sense of it all?  How do we bring together disparate, sometimes overlapping, technologies that together form our systems of engagement?  How do we use these systems to support decision-making?  I will be sharing with you my thoughts and suggestions for how to accomplish this in a series of articles over the coming weeks. In the interim, or should you have stories of your own you’d like to share, please email me at srosenberg@toprateservices.com.

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