Over the weekend I installed the developer preview of Windows 8 on one of the home computers. I have to say that the direction Microsoft is going with their product is one I happen to like. What it highlights, however, is how much the consumerization of computing is reaching into all avenues of computing.
I remember as a spotty teenager being enthralled by my early Memotech MTX512 with FDX floppy disk system and CP/M 2.2. Using it, compared to the non-CP/M system was the professionalization of home computing. IBM carried on this trait. Soon we were ditching our Atari STs, Acorn Electrons and all the others for Amstrad PC-DOS clones. Soon developers were turning their attention to these more powerful chips because it flattened the otherwise mountainous computing landscape at the time.
Aside from Apple’s excellent efforts with hardware and operating systems – which still sadly only account for a small minority of computers in the world – the rest of us are using professionalized computers which have over the years been bent into every shape possible. Part of the attraction of Apple’s products is that “they just work”, i.e. the user is not required to know much about anything that’s going on in order to get good results.
Whether Microsoft like it or not that has not been the case in the Windows world. We have been perplexed with blue screens of death, driver hell and all manner of constant updates. The home user has either stuck with the status quo of Windows or, if they have deep enough pockets, taken the leap in to the Apple world.
Whether or not you like OS X Lion’s further attempts at dumbing-down the operating system for literally anyone to use (or its clumsy attempt at homogenizing the experience of using a computer with an iPad), it must be clear to those in the know that there is a reversal of the professionalization going on. Consumerization of computing is very long overdue and something it could be argued is either evolution or revolution.
Windows 8 for those who have not had a look is a good move towards consumerization and making the computer more accessible for all. What, though, does all this mean for those of us interested in making business more social?
Well, one of the biggest consumer trends recently is of course social computing. Facebook is synonymous with connecting people. Organisations are abandoning advertising their corporate website and placing more emphasis on how they look in Facebook.
For organisations not directly business-to-consumer outfits, is this consumerisation trend something which can be ignored? Definitely not. In the end, the other businesses your organisation deal with are occupied with people too. Connecting with those people should be as much of a mission for you at work as it is with connecting with your friends when you’re sitting in front of your home computer at night.
Products like IBM Connections help organisations become more social. We have seen our own organization break down barriers and unlock tacit knowledge and experience which we didn’t know we had. There are thirteen of us. Imagine if you have thirteen hundred or thirteen thousand. What would you do then?
For us, however, consumerizing what we do is plain and simple business sense. Any online store knows how important it is to make using their store easy and smooth. Why would conducting business with another organization be any different? Why would you not want your customers and suppliers to be closer-connected to your staff? Would it make it easier for them to find out what they need to know, and therefore buy your product or services? Of course it would.
So I say put aside your extranets and your customer portals and open the door to your social business to your partners and customers. Let them move freely through the information you can share. Let them find out who is the expert in your organisation on the product you supply. Let them find out what that expert is blogging about and make it easy for them to contact him or her. Doing these things might seem scary, but by consumerizing your organisation through social software you take the one step any retailer knows to focus on – make it easy to buy.