I will start with an anecdote. It was the last session of my IS MBA course and I was talking about all the new and exciting developments surrounding the rise of Web 2.0. The class was going well till one of the students, in fact a really good student, raised his hand and fired a question. How is it, he asked, that we’ve spent almost the entire course discussing serious stuff – IT governance, ERPs, outsourcing etc. – and now all of a sudden we’re talking about Twitter, Facebook, and Steve Balmer’s blog. What does it all have to do with REAL business? …I did come up with some sort of an answer, of course, but the question stuck with me.
A few months ago we launched a research project that hopefully will help me do much better next time I’m asked this question. The project is run jointly by IESE, Henley Business School (UK), and Rochester Institute of Technology (USA), and is sponsored by Cisco. The idea is quite simple – we want to get a better grasp of the what, why, and how companies employ Web 2.0 and social media tools to collaborate across traditional organizational boundaries. Five areas are of particular interest to us: (1) what initiatives companies engage in, (2) what audiences they interact with, (3) what tools they deploy, (4) what governance mechanisms they put in place, and finally (5) what kind of impact that they observe …or don’t observe.
The project is still in the early stages but we already have a number of very interesting participants. They come from a variety countries and range from the stalwarts of traditional economy (3M, Xerox, Emerson) to banks (Bank of America, La Caixa) to educational institutions (Arizona State University, Academy of Executive Coaching) to online ventures (LinkedIn, Viadeo, Tempero). And this is just the beginning. If you have an interesting story, please join us. Social media is all about openness. So, let’s be open about how we can use it to improve the way business is run. Everybody is going to benefit in the end.