Salesforce.com officially launched Chatter this week to great acclaim and fanfare. I applaud their ability to develop, iterate and launch this product in eight months. Chatter represents their understanding that not all knowledge fits discretely in a database. It is increasingly important to focus on the internal conversation and flow [aka activity streams] that happen daily at organizations both large and small.
In watching the launch of Chatter, I wondered if the team focused enough on the impacts this tool has on the organizational human dynamics. I pondered a few of the following questions:
- Is Chatter an example of a tool that will help the Tummler's inside an organization?
- Will the ability to finally transparently see how information actually flows through siloed structures exposing the true power graph lend more credence to the imporatnce of these hidden individuals in an organization?
- What does this do to reputation and career path of people inside companies? What would happen if you added a reputation engine on top of Chatter? [shudder]
- How could tools such as chatter do an even better job at exposing the hidden information inside organizations to increase agility and innovative collaboration?
I dont meant to pick on Salesforce, they are one of many companies and tools that fall short when exploring the downstream human implications of what they are building. The good news is there are lessons to be learned from across multiple disciplines that we can bring together to improve this new world. We require a MUCH greater understanding of the human dynamics and impact of these tools. We need to build and integrate the social interface design work of UX designers [such as Christian Crumlish Adrian Chan and Derek Powazek] and organizations such as SigCHI and their related conference as well as organizational pychologists, industrial designers and ethnographers to gain a better understanding the dynamics of developing tools and implementing them. An entire new area of expertise is cropping up around Social Design. I am spending a lot of my time focused on just this area.
The oxymoron of our current networked, digital, data-driven real time web is that as we get more technologically advanced it becomes INCREASINGLY important to focus MORE on the human side of technology. I want software to adapt to my behavior not force me to retrofit my complexities into an oversimplifies set of features. I expect developers and companies to understand the dynamics at play and the impact of their tools. Social is not a channel it is infrastructure it is behavior - it is the grease that fuels our participation.
Note: Interested in an going conversation on these issues? Join Heather Gold, Kevin Marks me and our eclectic group of guests [including business folks, artists, designers and developers] weekly on Tummelvision. We hack at these topics LIVE every Thursday at 5pm PST/8PM EST over here. Please join us.
[photo credit: elasticcamel]