The Next Wave of the Business Internet: The Human Network@Work

September 17, 2007 - 1 Comment

Post by Alan S. Cohen, Vice President, Enterprise SolutionsReading my colleague Joe Burton’s blog a few days on UC”Analysis Paralysis” got me to thinking a little more deeply about how the next wave of the Internet was started by Web 2.0 and Social Networking (the Human Network), but may be completed by how businesses are taking advantage of the changing dynamics of Collaboration and Unified Communications (the Human Network @ Work). If the first wave of the Web Internet was largely defined by commerce and customer support (“œfind it, buy it, help it”), the second wave is more about rich collaboration (“œfind me, work with me”). The entrance of rich media and video into the equation shows how fast people-to-machine transactions are moving to people-to-people-to-contextual/real-time information types of interactions. People are in the center, not computers. And every device, fixed and mobile, is in play.Despite the prognostications you might hear about the unified communications marketplace, it is crystal clear that the user, and all the choices that users make, owns this emerging environment. Unified communications and collaboration is the new platform for businesses and winners in this market must take to heart the words of Winston Churchill:”I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” Monolithic approaches and platforms are destined for the dustbin of Internet history.To summarize, the Human Network @ Work has four guiding principles:1. The next wave of the business Internet is real-time, contextual, borderless and user-centric. This is why an intelligent network fabric is so critical: it securely supports (and links to) the applications, devices and processes businesses are using. It allows capabilities such as identity to personalize services. The network is the great equalizer in a world of choice2. By its nature, it is about secure rich collaboration and unified communications, not just IP Telephony or email or IM, but also web conferencing (e.g., WebEx), mobility, and video collaboration (TelePresence). TelePresence is not about 1080p HDTV video: it is about business transformation where your employees, partners and customers are truly integrated into your business operations and communications fabric. If this is not what Tom Friedman meant in The World is Flat, I am not sure what is.3. It is open, not dictated by one vendor’s applications but a rich and diverse suite of capabilities from a very, very wide range of players from ERP to industry-specific. It takes advantages of application using all operating systems -Windows, Linux, UNIX, Symbian, etc., etc. -and a range of developer communities.4. It can be delivered and consumed in a variety of manners: implemented at your business by your own IT staff or a great experienced technology partner (e.g., Cisco UC), managed by a VAR (Cisco Smart Business Communications System) or delivered by a service provider (WebEx)And yes, Joe, businesses want and can have much of this inclusive communications fabric RIGHT NOW, integrated with the innovations emerging in the marketplace today. Enabling the borderless, user-centric world of unified communications and collaboration will take networks, platforms and rich-media collaboration capabilities where the users choose and can integrate the applications, devices, and”workspaces.” Our concept of the workspace is anyplace is where you need to accomplish your job -hence our phrase, “work is an activity, not a place” — and it is one that is neither burdened by the absolutes of real estate nor a narrow definition of computer screens.When you make an investment in a UC platform, you are taking out a future option on web conferencing and video collaboration, and ultimately on business transformation. Over the past decade, many of us in the IT industry rushed to show how our technology could support our customers’ businesses processes. Today, however, we are working with them to discover how business processes can adapt around the changes in the world driven by the networked world, including globalization, social networking, business continuity, the search for and retention of talent, etc.Although the customer who starts with IP Telephony today may have no immediate plan for TelePresence and rich Collaboration platforms, there is no reason to make the former investment without the possibility on being able to use the latter with the same underlying technology. When you build a house from scratch, you rarely think I want”4 rooms, 3 bathrooms and a sunk-in family room for the rest of my life.” You start with that model — perhaps to meet your budget — but you also plan for the future capabilities (the game room, the backyard pool, etc.). Mark Twain, in his Autobiography quipped:”I liked criticism, but it must be my way.” Cast a cold eye on any approach to business communications and collaboration that either limits your choices or does not bring the capabilities you rely on, today.

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  1. Alan – this is a great post! I’ve been raising questions about the future of social media on my blog. I was searching Cisco blogs to see who I could contact to ask these questions: Cisco was involved in the Metanomics Conference in Second Life – how do you see the use of such ‘platforms’ evolving for business purposes? And do you think it will be viral or remain niche among certain corporate/business/industry players?””Your article answers my questions to a degree, would you elaborate further, specific to the Second Life example?REPLY:Fiona:I think virtual worlds like Second Life are the “”undiscovered country.”” We are still finding out what they mean for business. I can tell you, however, that a lot of large companies are experiementing in virtual worlds: some good, some not so meaningful. Liberating people to interact is interesting, so we’ll see.AlanP.S. Also, please check out our Virtual Worlds sister blog at: