In short :despite of noticeable efforts, corporate IT is still very siloed what restrains collaborative and social practices that often need double entry and involve task redundancies. Macro generators like IFTTT try to tackle this issue in the consumer web and may become worthy enterprise solutions in the future.
The enterprise IT is getting every day more consumerized. It started with blogs, wikis and the trend is still going on. And after softwares, it’s turn of devices as “Bring you own device” programs are gaining ground everyday,
To understand to what extent the web has changed since its origins, we often use the metaphor of the platform. More than a tool, the web has become a platform on which users use tools and services. Was is causing a major issue for users : these tools started to generated silos, what is quite paradoxical since they all claim being social.
So there was a need to get around these silos. Major platforms understood that they role of social aggregators of a scattered social life involved they could be able to take and share what their users were doing on other services. And these services building walls to lock users in was useless and, on the contrary, that they needed to be visible from facebook and al to gain exposure and and critical mass.
The necessary automation of the web
Hence the possibility to automatically publish what one does on one service to another one. I schedule a trip on Tripit, it’s shared on Facebook, I wrote a post on my blog, it’s shared on linkedin, I listen to a song on Deezer, it’s shared on…
Now let’s get back to enterprise IS. I often wrote that the future, often called “digital workplace” was more a matter of interoperability than integration. If we leave the technology field to focus on human concerns (yes…the famous chair-keyboard interface that can refuse to use the powerful and brilliantly designed software/intranet because it brings more complication than it solves problems) there’s a fact we must acknowledge. One of the reasons users don’t adopt new practices, stick in their old tools is that in many cases changing behaviors involves double entry. People act as middleware and have to move from a tool to another while information should do it instead of them.
So they perform an action here, have to notify their team or community there, ask questions somewhere else. They work in a tool, report problems in others, discuss in others.
It’s not about technology but about people : it’s time consuming, complicated, tedious, cause useless multitasking and make people loose track of their work.
Of course many players started to address this point. Integration between social platforms and business applications is improving even if the result is too often questionable. Users do things in business applications, those who are supposed to be the guiding light of their work, and the notification in their social / collaboration software is automatic. Much better than switching tools to day “I updated such project and here’s a screenshot of the dashboard for those who can’t access it”.
Basic but necessary.
Macros to make the user journey better
But can’t we go further ? This kind of integration works for mainstream needs, with “obvious” and massively used applications. But does it cover all the needs ? definitely not.
Because each user has his own needs, routines and workflows. Because they realize they need more specific parameters over time. Because some sequences can involve both internal and external tools.
So let’s get back to the consumer web for a minute, and have a look at a tool I discovered months ago. IFTTT. For “If this then that”. If something happens somewhere, I can decide it will trigger an another somewhere else. I can build my own recipes and use recipes shared by other users. Like macros that made some office automation software famous.
Some recipes may look redundant regarding to what some platforms propose natively (like sharing on twitter when a blog post is published) but the fineness of configuration makes IFTTT often more relevant that native services. Most of all, IFTTT allows more complex things that work as we want with the tools we love.
Automate routines to favor new behaviors
So what are the consequences for the corporate IT ?
How many tedious routines would users like to automate this way with macros ? To what extent would it help to improve sharing, notifications without cause double entries and added tasks ? With the generalization of APIs in enterprise software, is it a good means to complement the vendors offerings that will never be exhaustive ?
I’m sure they’ll be room for an Enterprise version of IFTTT in a very near future.