A marketing titan from the Web 1.0 era has a framework for bridging to the next
For me, the best social media idea of 2011 wasn’t even invented this year. But like good wine, it’s come of age. And the idea is actually bigger than social media. Applied broadly, it encompasses all of social engagement, whether you’re looking at consumer engagement, employee engagement, or civic action, the area of social that truly lit up in the past year.
I’m talking about Geoffrey Moore’s concept of systems of recordversus systems of engagement. Developed over the course of five years — beginning with his 2005 book Dealing With Darwinand culminating in a 2010 study commissioned by AIIM (the Association for Information and Image Management), the concept lays out two distinct but complementary information systems that businesses need to think about in the current era. First camesystems of record — enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, product lifecycle management, and all the other enterprise applications responsible for the productivity gains in the latter part of the last century. Then, with so-called consumerization of IT, came systems of engagement, a complex of communication and collaboration tools and platforms that will enable the next wave of productivity gains. Sounds simple, correct? Perhaps overly simple. But there are at least three reasons why the concept is taking hold and influencing the way so many people think about social today:
Respect for the past
Too many people in the social business world are dismissive of the tools and platforms that paved the first wave of productivity gains. The greatest evidence of this is the pejorative term Web 1.0 which is used to describe anything and everything that arrived before the social media revolution. This is typical of revolutions, of course; they are designed to overthrow the incumbents. But as anyone who has spent time consulting for the enterprise, the opportunity is not to help managers to replace systems, but rather to help them integrate systems where in fact integration makes sense. There’s another reason why respect for the past works — as Moore shows, the widespread implementation of systems of record actually led to the conditions that make systems of engagement neccessary. The first wave made outsourcing increasingly attractive, which in turn forced companies to focus on core competencies, which in turn forced them to look for ways to better collaborate with others in their ecosystems. There’s an historical if not cultural continuity to be mined here. It’s not as though in 2004 suddenly the world blew up. A healthy regard for this continuity helps in conversations with people who were around before and after. And that’s a lot of people. It hasn’t been that long.
Respect for the people
And who are these people? Well, increasingly, a lot of the conversations that social business consultants are having today are with the folks in IT. For some consultants, this has to be an alarming development. Along with all the Web 1.0 bashing several years ago, there was quite a lot of IT bashing. Why? Because IT professionals were not seen not as agents for the change that was required but keepers of the older faith. Not sure that was ever true, and it certainly isn’t true today. Many IT leaders today are in fact agents of change. They are not the only agents of change, but they have mandates, they have budgets, and they have ideas. In the meantime, having a framework that enables a frank discussion about the systems you have versus the systems you need — and the relative worth of each — is a far better way to engage an important constituency.
Simplicity of Story
I noted that Moore’s concept is also simple — perhaps overly simple. But that’s one of its virtues. First, the simplicity of the systems of record versus systems of engagement dichotomy has enabled the concept to spread widely and quickly with little need for study and inspection; once someone grasps the basic concept, she can quickly get to work and address the knottier issues. Second, the utter simplicity of the concept has allowed for more abstract but meaningful conversations, where “systems” can mean not just IT systems but any set of systems where the incumbents and the new breed need to operate side by side. Take, for example, the world of civic engagement where the top-down approach of message creation now needs to live compatibly with the bottoms-up, collaboration-driven approach of leaderless movements (the defining organizational idea behind the Tea Party, the Arab Spring, Occupied, and other contemporary movements). The old way was a system of record, the new way is a system of engagement, and their integration creates value.
But there’s also a simplicity in the story of the messenger who gets credit for the idea. Moore first became famous in the Web 1.0 era with a simple framework that shows how products penetrate markets in the technology world. The framework, “Crossing the Chasm,” is something that even young business students today can recite with little error. That a marketing titan from the Web 1.0 era could have a framework for bridging to the next — well that’s part of the appeal. When I mention systems of engagement today, and the CXO has already heard of it, more likely than not she will say, with a smile, “oh yeah, that’s Geoffrey Moore, the crossing the chasm guy.” Crossing the chasm, indeed. Respect for the past, respect for the man, for great ideas persist.
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