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Café Innovation – Business Processes and the Facebook Phenomenon

As we move into the holiday season many of us will be engaging in various social activities….perhaps it is appropriate that we have a discussion around social networking!  

Over these past few days I have had some interesting conversations with some 18- to 24-year olds about this topic (…and, it is important we pay attention to this age-group because they are shaping the business environment for the next decade and beyond). The world has certainly changed since I was in that age group! Text messaging via mobile phones, and using Instant messaging on the go (via mobile devices) seem very second nature to this group, as does one other activity that had me intrigued when I first encountered it over a year ago – interacting via Facebook. A lot has been written – and this continues to get attention – on the Gen Y effect on society and the business world. There is also considerable ongoing discussion of the effect this has when interwoven with the effect of Web 2.0 technology capabilities. So I won’t go into that aspect here. In this post, I would like to help stimulate discussion, in the context of daily interaction, around the actual impact in the business world that these capabilities and trends could potentially have.

While I was having these conversations with those who are an active part of the Facebook culture, I was reminded of a headline that I had come across earlier: Facebook ‘Fad’ Spreads to Corporate Campuses (Jon Swartz, USA Today, 10/03/07). In this article, the discussion is around the fact that the “social networking site Facebook has attracted legions of users linked by common interests, and that makes Facebook an attractive target for the industry’s leaders. Companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo and Google have been looking to invest in — or even buy — Facebook in order to advance their online advertising interests.” This article ( goes on to discuss the motivation for these marquee names to leverage the popularity of Facebook mainly to drive advertising revenues. The question that  we can start to consider is whether something like Facebook has a significant application inside an organization to facilitate a business process. And, if it does, what that might look like?

Do you have processes that suffer today for lack of appropriate attention from the key stakeholders because there isn’t an easy way for them to build consensus by communing? Have you experienced on the one hand, the need to have a community focus on key issues in your organization, and on the other hand the need to do this easily by building on common interests? Do you have a workforce that increasingly appears to take easily to the Facebook-like channels? Will a social networking channel boost such processes? Or, as some companies feel today, will it be a drag on productivity? What are the security risks that such activity might present? What are the potential regulatory (e.g., Sarbanes-Oxley) considerations? Could a Facebook-like channel address some of the collaboration concerns while balancing the need to satisfy productivity and regulatory demands?

Please chime in with your thoughts on the social networking aspects that might have an impact on your business processes.

P.S. I am off to Bangalore in about 10 days to present at SAP Tech Ed ’07 in that city. My next post will likely be upon my return in the first week of December (… or thereabouts). Happy Thanksgiving!

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  • …went to Facebook Developer’s Garage event yesterday evening in Phoenix where they showed how companies are using Facebook for marketing. They explained their API’s and how it can be used by third parties – very interesting stuff. I guess we will see Facebook applications popping up quite soon and some of them specifically for enterprise use.
    🙂 Harald
    • mmmm…
      IMO, SAP is a very more complex application, if you are dealing with business logic and processes you cannot apply same rules. I see Facebook gold rule is “let people to share”, In an enterprise environment that rule does not apply. You have to share where process designed has to share or some people role has to share with another role, an enterprise is a more controlled environment. Personally, I see some times applications as a fashion issue, I can understand if you are a freelance consultant you could get a good job using Facebook or you can drive a meeting with your friends, but an enterprise is another thing.
    • I would think it would be important to facilitate communication with such channels. As somebody in this discussion has indicated, there might be a move afoot to have Facebook apps. If that comes to pass, then certainly there needs to be a way to enable mashups with enterprise resources (in SAP shops this will be SAP-centric). I would welcome any further input around Facebook apps. Thanks.