Saturday, September 15, 2007


Enterprise Architecture and Social Networking

Mike Kavis attempted to explain the benefits of social networking without first understanding its impediments within an enterprise context...

Social networking within the enterprise can't happen in any meaningful way until the enterprise truly understands what being social means. I remember a conversation with several architects who are employed by a large enterprise across the street from me where they found it intriguing that I actually had frequent conversations with VP-level IT executives in my company. One of them mentioned to me that they have never talked with their VP while another mentioned that they have talked with theirs only once in the last five years.

Within our shop, we have a more open culture where pretty much everyone talks with everyone else. The notion of what tier you are at, matters more to the HR system than it does to how we operate on a daily basis. While at some level, we believe in not allowing our immediate boss to be caught off-guard by exercising the right to no surprises, we also don't attempt to control the message in any hierarchical way.

Many folks here know that I am a big into the notion of community and not just in a virtual sense but also in terms of local communities as well. I currently have two high school kids from the inner city reporting to me. Several weeks ago, an SVP was strolling down the aisle and pulled up a chair and had a conversation with one of them. My student mentioned how he wanted to attend MIT and hinted that schools such as Rensallaer where good but not MIT. Of course, this executive attended RPI and was cool.

My Enterprise Architect peers in New York City in firms such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, AIG, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse put on their monkey suits every day and play corporate guy while our culture allows us to dress down and talk to each other like humans. Within our shop, it is not just about our SVP as this permeates the culture. Does your CEO and other folks on executive row eat in the same cafeteria you do? Ours does...

I wonder if Mike Kavis is guilty of stereotyping all large enterprises with the same level of formality bullshit without understanding that embracing social networking is not difficult if you have the right leadership. Social networking is difficult within an enterprise context if you have IT executives who practice management by magazine, who believe that process can be a substitute for competence, who speak in a humorless monotone where your call is important to us while I transfer you to Mr. Dialtone.

Culture is a manifestation of leadership where those who understand social networking tend to understand the distinction between power and authority. Maybe our friends in CIO magazine could stop feeding the egos of IT executives and start writing more about how to make enterprises better. While they are at it, explain to their readers the difference between management and leadership. Good leaders foster good culture; bad leaders foster bad culture and CIO magazine needs to help IT executives know when their behaviors are anti-social. What if Mike Kavis started blogging about what leadership behaviors result in a bad culture? Would this help others realize why social networking is more than just a technology play?

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