Hey ! I’m your ERP and I’m talking to you !

I’d like to share some thoughts about what our work environment may look like in a close future if what I think being two main trends manage to reach maturity.

The first is “ambient awareness”. a word I find more relevant than microblogging which is only its embodying in terms of toosls. That’s the ability to continuously capture weak signals from one’s environment in order not to behave like an isolated player but as a player into an ecosystem, allowing to make the actions of both one and the other more coherent.

The other is “activity-specific social application” or social software 2.0.That’s a new kind of enterprise social application that do not put the social activities out of peoples workaday work (over the flow) but enrich the process tools they are built around (and are often a component) (in the flow).

Il s’agit d’un nouveau genre d’applications “sociales” d’entreprise qui ne positionnent plus la dite dimension sociale hors du travail quotidien du collaborateur mais viennent enrichir les outils de process autour desquels ils sont construits (et dont ils sont souvent une composante).

Before all I’ll start with an assumption : people always try (and will always) to automate everything that can be automated. That’s the human nature and, most of all, the organizations nature. The rise of people-centric theories is rather the acknowledgement that not everything can be automated today that a real will to focus more on people and give them more recognition.

The power of enterprise 2.0 tools is that they give people the ability to make every kind of information accessible, either in a proactive way or by answering to a question, a stimulation. This allows to run problem solving and ongoing improvement processes that integrate the workaday flow and improve the reactivity and quality of everyone’s work while building a hudge mass of searchable, usable and improvable information. The contribution of microblogging is to bring a real time dimension that is the perfect complement to traditional asynchronous web 2.0 tools.

One of the best use of these new tools and practices is “bottle in the sea”. The famous “who knows ? Who has any information about ?”. Notice that there are also implicit bottles, those we don’t throw consciously and that are in every status update, despite of us. For instance when we say “going to meet such prospect”, we don’t expect anything back. But someone can answer “I know them well / I already worked on similar cases / etc…”. In brief, a status update can also be seen as an implicit question, adressing the sphere of the “unknown unknown” that sounded quite funny in Rumsfeld’s mouth but that is not so far from our concerns.

The efficiency of the practice relies on another assumption : someone will read, answer, or push my message to someone who’ll be able to answer. This implies that the information exists, and that its owner and / or a “connector” is available in a synchronous fashion when I send my own message. Possible on the web because of its wide scope, more difficult in an organization simply because there are fewer potential answerers.

Information can be of twi kinds. It can be either formal and tacit, so it can only be shared and told by its owner (except if the owner already formalized it on any social space), or structured, codified and classified in one of the many information systems that crowd the organization. In this case, if search is too tedious, or if I ignore the very existence of the tools that may help me, I need one of my peers to direct me to this information which existence and location he knows.

Maybe you see what I’m coming to : if information is in my colleague’s head, they have to be available, but if it’s elsewhere how not to loose the opportunity to find it if the “connector” is not avaiblable, can’t read my message ?

The principle of microblogging is quite simple : “players” update their statuses and react to other people’s updates. In our everyday life, on twitter for instance, that’s quite easy to understand. We may though that it’s the same within organization but, in fact, it’s not. If we suppose that “human players” have the ability to react, what’s about “technological players” ? I mean all the systems and applications that detains information, some of these tools’ existence being even sometimes ignored, in within which informations is quite impossible to be found.

Imagine that your CRM or any other tool can answer to your statuses :

“going to visit Smith Corp.”

“Follow this link to have a synthesis of our past activities and negociations with them / the list of our contacts at Smith Corp is available here / Did you know that xxxx worked at Smith Corp in the past ?”.

another one

“because of suppling issues, their next order will we deliver lately..”,”You shoud know they have arrears…”


“the list of hotels and restaurants approved by our purchasing dept is avaiblable here”, “need a taxi, click here”

Admit that typing on an internal microbloggint tool “I need informations on…(client/supplier/competitor)” and see not only people but other tools answe to you with a link to custom generated page, may reconciliate users with some tools. It’s more intuitive and surely more productive. A field, a button, 140 chars…that’s social business hub…but it won’t come before many years (if it comes).

Write about an Hotel brand on twitter or ask “looking for an hotel in NYC”.  Sometimes you’ll the brand’s robot come and answer you. In a rudimentary way…but the logic is there. When I’m going on holiday, my network recommands some hotels and airlines, why would I receive a twitt from an airline saying : we have a flight departing tomorrow at 8.00 and the fare is…. Click here. It would be more efficient (because fulfilling an actual and current need) that filling my inbox with promotions. Imagine the same within an organization.

Since we can’t search into people, we have conversations. We can search into tools but its tedious and time consuming, sometimes even impossible. Why, tomorrow, wouldn’t tools monitor our feeds as our colleagues do ? Why wouldn’t they answer to our explicit and implicit questions ?

Recently, Luis Alberola wrote that we’ll have to learn to talk to bots as our work of automating systems that will solve our problems will go along (even what can’t be automated tomorrow may be tomorrow). I wonder if, rather than learning to talk to both, that”s not bots that will have to learn to listen and understand us, what’s not trivial considering our relationship with tooks.

One day, our passive tools will become actual players to help us. Technology won’t be humanized as long as we won’t be able to network with our ERPs 😉

activity-specific social software, ambiant awareness, CRM, ERP, information, microblogging, résolution de problèmes, temps réel, web temps réel

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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