Sunday, January 14, 2007


Why Enterprise Architects should discourage all forms of social networking...

A couple of days ago, an architect that I highly respect said something intriguing about me and my vast network on LinkedIn and how it may be detrimental. Figured I would analyze my own behavior when it comes to social networking...

Consider a situation where a large enterprise named Legacy Waterfall Group decides to hire four enterprise architects named James Robertson, Chris Petrilli, Robert McIlree and Anne Zelenka and permitted them to blog and network outside of their enterprise. One day in a meeting, one of them advocates the merits of Smalltalk while another claims it is no longer relevant and a debate ensues. One person mentions a conversation they had with a peer enterprise architect in another shop and how they were migrating away from Smalltalk towards Java because of TCO and better performance and scalability characteristics.

Now, lets consider these same four players, but now only having a conversation with a proprietary closed source software vendor. The vendor shows up with their four-color chock-a-block eye candy Powerpoint presentation that wows folks. The software vendor leaves copies of the latest analyst firm that said something positive about them. The enterprise folks love getting research for free and the vendor can measure how wonderful of a job they did.

Let's compare and contrast the above two scenarios. In the first scenario, one enterprise architect decided to do his own homework while in another they outsourced their own research. In the first scenario, the enterprise got smarter (but may not capitalize on it) about how others are using technology in a transparent way, while in the second the enterprise only has the perspective of the absolute best way to use the software. Finally, in the first scenario the enterprise architect committed an act of evil in that he presented information for which others couldn't participate in collecting while in the second scenario, everyone was on a level playing field and all gained perspectives at the same time...

This begs the question of whether social networking is good or bad in an enterprise setting. Is it better for enterprises to figure out how to get access to the best information even when it disrupts the dynamics of how folks collaborate internally or should internal collaboration be the most important attribute even at the expense of the enterprise learning better ways of doing things that could increase speed to market, reduce expense or improve quality?

Maybe one of the reasons you don't really see a lot of enterprisey folks in the blogosphere is not due to stuffy media relations policies that discourage folks from talking about anything but because of its disruptive effect on internal conversations. Consider what should a boss do when one of his employees outshines another by doing homework and becoming smarter than those who don't participate in social networking? Should the boss figure out a way to get them promoted or figure out a way to politely encourage them to slow down so as to not make others feel bad?

Those who blog, contribute to open knowledge such as Wikipedia, speak at conferences and so on will obviously disturb the fine balance that liberalism encourages. After all, aren't we all equal...

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