Martin Banks speaks to Tibco Software's Raj Verma about the future of the workplace, and the peer-group collaboration model of social media.
Here’s a quick question for: what will 'employment' be like in a few year’s time and how will that affect the way information management services will need to change to accommodate it?
According to Raj Verma, vice president of worldwide marketing with Tibco Software, it is quite likely that things are set to change drastically.
“The concept of the corporation is about 400 years old. But before that we were all just contributors, doing the bits we could. And I think we are going back to that model. I wouldn’t like to speculate on how long it will take but I think the way young people will want to work will make it happen.”
Such thinking raises a large number of issues about how businesses will need to organise themselves to exploit these changes. From the IT department’s point view, all of this raises the fundamental issue: 'what do we have to do to manage this?'
The Cloud will certainly take a major role here as it will be the platform on which the services required will need to run – there is unlikely to be any other way of doing it. It will also be the case that the real trick will switch from providing the systems and applications the workforce will require, to building the management framework that will give the diametrically opposed requirements of control and security on the one hand and near-anarchic operational flexibility on the other.
This dichotomy is already starting to become apparent with the pressure from staff to use their own devices as clients on the corporate network. This is only going to grow as the range and scope of possible clients continues to expand. It is already an expansion which no business can keep up with. In fact, it is already foolhardy for businesses to try – that way lies madness for the IT department and penury for the chief financial officer.
Verma explains the problem simply. “In the old days the technology people used at work was far superior to anything they had at home, even if it was only a manual typewriter. Now the situation is reversed and the best technology is at home. And young people coming into the workforce are not going to work with the old ways of doing things.”
The old ways
One of the 'old ways' is, of course, email. Verma suggests that most young people consider it really rather quaint and limiting, and see the ability to communicate to and relate with their peer groups on services like Facebook and Twitter as a much better way of operating. Verma acknowledges the role being played by email in a corporate world as the vehicle for recording and collating the all-important unstructured data about a business – from internal discussions about possible developments through to large orders place by important customers (where they are often tantamount to a formal contract).
“That is still important for areas where compliance and governance issues play a part,” he said, “but in the majority of business communications a different approach is now better. For example, I use Tibbr, which gives me a structured social media environment. The alternative is ploughing through hundreds of emails.”
Tibbr is Tibco’s own social media tool which is used within the company. Users can set up, or be invited into a communities of common interest, which can range from 'public' (in other words every member of staff) through to `closed’ which might be just two or three people involved in a specific confidential project. So security and access controls can be set accordingly.
This therefore presents Verma with 'sets' of related information, rather than have him piece it together from an email folder. It also allows him to hit just the members of a specific group with relevant information.
For those responsible for setting up such services the need becomes one of building a management environment which can cope with just about anything as a client system, providing security for the information rather than the device itself.
This is one area that will still probably need a common application, but even that might not be necessary so long as a common data structure and file format are used. But in many other areas of a business the traditional model of a limited and tightly controlled set applications being used for all business processes and operations is likely to disappear.
“I can see enterprises having their own Apps Stores,” Verma says, “where users can select the tools that suit their needs and preferences.”
The peer-group collaboration model of social media is also going to change a fundamental role for many areas of business management. This could have a particular impact on some areas of IT systems and services management and support, for Verma feels it will become at least as important to the users to ask their peer group about problems and solutions as ask their line manager or the IT department.
This is the open source model of business operations, and could have very beneficial effects. For example, it could become like the open source community, of which it is often said that anyone posting a coding problem or bug on a community forum will have 10,000 support engineers on their case within minutes. The impact of such a model on business operations and practices could be far-reaching indeed.
“We are based close to where Facebook and Twitter started out, and we see that crowdsourcing solutions to business issues is already starting to happen there,” Verma says.