From Computer Networks to Human Networks

I’m in Amsterdam, at Orange Business Live 2010 – An event Orange Business Services runs each year, looking at the challenges and changes in the communications space. At the pre-event evening event one thing that really struck me was the value in networking and networks. Not just the global data networks that have been built (and many of which Orange Business Services run), but the human networks that drive business, and the value of person-to-person communication.

The activity of meeting industry peers, exchanging ideas, and sharing experiences and challenges, is an intensely valuable one. It’s an interesting time for the CIOs here. While there is conversation about the place of machine-to-machine communication, the bigger buzz was about building the “human network” within the business, enabling people across the globe to work as if they were standing side-by-side.

Business agility is a key theme here. The speed of change today is phenomenal, to borrow an example from Helmut Reisinger, Senior Vice President Europe, Orange Business Services: “Days to a million” is shrinking. Apple took 724 days to sell a million devices with the first iPod, 74 days for the first iPhone, and just 3 days for the iPhone 2. Business has to move faster, react faster, make decisions faster. That means getting information around the organisation more quickly, but meaningfully.

“Gen Y” is becoming an increasing percentage of the work force, brining with them new expectations about connectivity and communication. A new generation of IT users is coming into the work place, and for them their first experience of IT was their mobile phone. It’s something that’s true from India to Europe.

From a SocialOptic perspective, this is not news. Milestone Planner has always been about building human networks with plans and people as nodes in that network. We’ve seen how rapidly human networks build, and how effectively information travels when it traverses across social graphs (human networks again!) rather than org charts. What is news it quite how quickly the shift is happening. You can see it in people’s faces as they interact with the blogging team. There’s curiosity, and less caution, about understanding social computing and what it can do for business.

Data networks’ value is in supporting the human network, and the most valuable software is that which joins the human network to the global network. Now, I might be a bit biased in that, but I challenge you to tell me that that isn’t so!

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