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How Social Networking is Redefining Modern IT May 3, 2013

Posted by Drew Williams in Modern IT.

Today, nearly 600 social networks exist on the internet, with new ones for new niches being created constantly.[1]  A variety of advances have been made in social media as well.  As these new methods of sharing information take hold, a lot of these advances are starting to make themselves known amongst businesses.  As social computing tools become more popular, deploying a social networking solution across a business as a whole might also prevent fragmented internal tools and insecure external tools from being used – reducing the probability of vampire data or information leaks.[2]  In fact, Forrester Research recently theorized that “the sales of software to run corporate social networks will grow 61% a year and be a $6.4 billion business by 2016.”  Profits from such use have been modest, but “only about 3% of respondents used social business tools for all three major uses — reaching customers, connecting employees and coordinating with suppliers, McKinsey said.[3]”  In time, it’s expected that more informed use of social networking tools will result in further improved profitability.

Perhaps the most prominent effect is on the marketing departments of businesses – social networking is greatly impacting the relationship between the IT department and the advertising leaders of a business by bringing the customer voice to the company with minimal effort.  By establishing a social media presence, products and events can be marketed in a much easier fashion – a brand might tweet or create a Facebook event that those receiving can share instantly with their friends, increasing their visibility.  However, social media doesn’t just function as a way to self-promote a company; Companies can also use blogs and social sites to bring customers into their product-design process,”[4] creating an interactive experience that can foster trust and friendship amongst their clientele/fans and themselves.  However, companies should take care to establish basic guidelines for utilization of Social Media – much like those mentioned by IBM.[5]  This is important in particular for companies such as software vendors, where a social media reputation can be the difference between a sale or a loss.  While encouraged, those managing the social media experience should take care to foster trust and respect with their audience – otherwise, an errant tweet by a worker can bring the trust and friendship fostered crashing to the ground.

        After a proper social media reputation is enabled, the company gets the added benefit of not only being able to interact with its customers, but also analyzing the assortment of data that the customers provide to social media networks for the benefit of their own business.   This turns social computing outlets that hundreds of millions use daily into pools of data to be fed into analytics programs.  A number of social media analytics programs exist, as well[6] – often allowing a user to track clicks on their tweeted or posted links, check views to their profile, and see traits about the sort of users who view their content such as where they are from.  One such analytic program, entitled Viralheat, “ compare[s] various search profiles or…relevant terms…over the Internet or over different businesses.”  It also gives you the ability to “track certain business words or products over…social media sites and…see what is causing a buzz and what is not. You can visualize the data on a pie chart or graph.”  Utilizing this data, one might be able to create content that is more engaging than the average story.  

The use of this data as an analytical tool is also being improved by utilization of Big Data tools. Wolfram Alpha, a data-driven search engine of sorts, recently opened a campaign to allow Facebook users to view statistics about the social networking giant as a whole in exchange for adding their own data to the mix.  However, the point is not the results, but the implications of the fact that such results can be acquired.  Using social media services as a method of drawing information about a particular region or a particular age group using Big Data tools could be revolutionary for businesses, perhaps lifesaving in some cases – one company, entitled “Splunk”, was able to aggregate data about the recent Hurricane Sandy by searching Twitter and Instagram.  “The company was able to go through Twitter and “splunk” it, pulling out any Instagram picture that included a hashtag or word like “Sandy” or “hurricane”…These photos provide a ground-level view of the damage, providing photos that people can view and rate, on a scale of one to ten, in terms of the damage level, Wilson said.

It might be obvious from the preceeding talk that social networking can have a very positive effect on the collaborative efforts and organization of a given team.  Red Robin, a popular burger establishment, recently proved the usefulness of inter-workplace social networking when they needed to release a new product – and information about it – across their 460 restaurants.  “[Using] an internal social network that resembles Facebook to teach its managers everything from the recipes to the best, fastest way to make them…[i]nstead of mailing out spiral-bound books, getting feedback during executives’ sporadic store visits and taking six months to act on advice from the trenches, the network’s freewheeling discussion and video produced results in days.[7]”  A culture of sharing can be beneficial not only for getting ideas from the CEO to the interns, but vice versa as well – allowing a healthy spread of ideas from coworker to coworker, uninhibited by censorship for fear of being put down by higher-ups.  Special recognition can be given here to how corporate culture augments this impact – and how social computing in turn affects an existing corporate culture.  While a happy employee will make your company look better when tweeting or posting about a new and upcoming feature the company is developing, social media – in and out of house – can also hint at employee feelings about the company.  “Monitoring social media channels like Twitter and Facebook, along with discussion forums like Glassdoor.com and Quora can help identify some of the recurring themes and conceptions associated with your company culture and employment brand. [8]“  If your employees are complaining about your business on the internet, even proper management of company-based social media profiles won’t undo the damage!  

        Mobile computing also plays a part in the proliferation of social networking within businesses, and in general.  Improved communication without mobility will only improve the workplace and interactions between coworkers to a point, but adding in the mobile factor – that is,  smart devices that allow workers to get notifications and messages any time – really improves these interactions.  Furthermore, smart devices are taking over the general computing market – recent surveys showed that “37% of total time spent online was via a mobile device” amongst people, and “27% of tablet and 20% of smartphone users are migrating their Facebook time from their PCs to their mobile devices.[9]”  

However, one finally must keep in mind the enhanced security problems inherent in using social computing – while impacts discussed thus far have been positive, this one is not so.  While some social networks work to keep data with the user exclusively,[10] the overwhelming majority are cloud-based – which is inhibiting overall adoption of the social network programs.  “Because social tools make many things that were normally private much more public — including policies, procedures, critical methods, corporate data, and intellectual property — many organizations would rather wait for best practices in dealing with this important issue to solidify before climbing very far up the social computing adoption curve. [11]“  Many of these problems are not faults of social networking in and of itself, but rather inherent in all programs using cloud computing.

These effects in mind, one should reiterate once more that social networking is still relatively new, and now that it is ingrained in our culture and society (as well as our workplaces and methods of doing work), it’s expected only to take a stronger hold.  As rapidly as social networking is developing, it’s hard to imagine what sorts of advances we’ll see in the coming future.

[1] Arandilla, R. (2012).  A History You Will Love: How Online Social Networking Began.  Retrieved from http://www.1stwebdesigner.com/design/history-social-networking/

[2] Buczek, L. & Harkins, M.  Developing an Enterprise Social Computing Strategy.  Retrieved from http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/enterprise-reliability/intel-it-developing-enterprise-social-computing-strategy-paper.html

[3] Mullany, T. (2012).  Social Media is Reinventing How Business is Done.  Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/economy/story/2012-05-14/social-media-economy-companies/55029088/1

[4]Mullany, T. (2012).  Social Media is Reinventing How Business is Done.  Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/economy/story/2012-05-14/social-media-economy-companies/55029088/

[5] IBM.  IBM Social Computing Guideles. Retrieved from http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html.

[6] Jackson, S.  (2013).  Top 5 Social Media Analytics Tools in 2013.  Retrieved from http://doteduguru.com/id9260-top-5-social-media-analytics-tools-in-2013.html

[7] Mullany, T. (2012).  Social Media is Reinventing How Business is Done.  Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/economy/story/2012-05-14/social-media-economy-companies/55029088/1

[8] Charney, M.  (2013).  Social Media and Company Culture: Three Things Employers Need to Know.  http://hiring.monster.com/hr/hr-best-practices/workforce-management/employee-retention-strategies/social-media-company-culture.aspx

[9] MarketingCharts.  (2013).  55% of Social Networking Consumption Occurs on a Mobile Device.  Retrieved from http://www.marketingcharts.com/wp/interactive/55-of-social-networking-consumption-occurs-on-a-mobile-device-27327/

[10] Dwyer, J.  (2010).  Four nerds and a cry to arms against Facebook.  Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/12/nyregion/12about.html

[11] Hinchcliffe, D. (2009).  Ten top issues in adopting enterprise social computing.  Retrieved from http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hinchcliffe/ten-top-issues-in-adopting-enterprise-social-computing/581





1. egordon21 - May 4, 2013

How Cloud Computing is Redefining Modern IT

Throughout the semester we covered several key themes affecting the current state of Information Technology. I have learned a lot from big data analytics to the mobile explosion taking place alongside social analytics. When I think of redefining, not just enhancing the way we work, I think of the power of cloud computing. While this is a big topic with many nodes underneath it, I plan on focusing on how it is driving value in our jobs we currently hold today.

Integration of existing services was once a very difficult task. Just in the past two years, our company has acquired two other companies both with annual revenues in the billions of dollars per year. Forbes presented an excellent summary on an article from a Price Waterhouse report that was published a few days ago on mergers with cloud computing. “The major catalysts driving cloud deals forward in 2013 is software companies” [1]. Cloud deals move faster and allow their systems to be easier integrated into legacy systems.

I typically hear about the problem of legacy systems bogging down everything in the banking realm, where mainframes running COBOL still are core to the business. The companies we acquired alongside ourselves all have adopted a (Saas) model for our in house applications. We didn’t have to write any expensive middleware which typically slows down and complicates the processes going on. The cloud allowed us to host our endpoints to be consumed by our customers who use our products. The distribution chain of the past included installing software from a disc, or sitting through client updates being streamed your way as a patch. With the cloud, updates are almost instantaneous because they are only installed on the load balanced cluster. This model differs from having multiple physical copies of the software, most of which could be of a different version. Configuration can be tricky this way, and upgrade paths become a little more difficult. While each customer will have their own configuration options to make the code work for their needs, the customization is designed for a predefined set of options.

With the cloud I have noticed that feature delivery has been much more frequent.
Even Windows now is going away from their 3 year Windows releases for shorter iterations delivered digitally for a smaller price. Windows Blue will be the first wave of this new software delivery model for Microsoft. We use agile at work and deliver every 3 weeks with a new build that can be deployed. With centrally hosted software, the upgrade is done by us not the customer.

The cloud has allowed us to collaborate more than we used to. With social networking taking off thanks to MySpace and Facebook, these features of web 2.0 functionality are often offered with applications hosted online. This allows applications to be able to talk to each other, and share their information. Google Docs is a prime example of this, where one user can be making a change, and it shows up in the other user’s window. I also can update my Calendar, and the change is pushed to my phones calendar as well. This tight level of integration not only makes my life easier, but it also drives value in the centrally located benefits. I no longer worry about backing my files up, or having the wrong computer with me. Cloud storage gives me access to everything I need, so long as I have internet access. This changes the way I work, where before I would have to email or FTP something, I can drop it off in a drop box or content management system like SharePoint for someone else to pick up.

Smartphones are the hottest selling tech item outside of tablets for the past few years. Almost everyone I know has one these days. The article Redefining cloud computing calls for changes to applications to not be concerned with being consumed by a traditional PC, but by a mobile device. [2] His key notion that more people are using mobile devices then PCs is true. I do agree that working on the go is much easier with a smaller device, but trying to get serious IT work done isn’t possible without at least a laptop. Maybe your mobile device could serve as a thin client if everything is processed server side, and only displayed back to the user.

There has been a lot of hype around the cloud term and rightfully so. One of the topics classes last year focused entirely on the cloud itself and all it has to offer. This article on redefining the cloud [3] focused on the different architectural patters that have emerged to make use of the cloud. Some people think the cloud can be a model to solve any computing problem. This is true if we only focus on the tactical side of storage and scalability, but from a technology standpoint, I feel client server will be relevant for many years to come.

Expectations of sustainability were a video I watched. This article dealt with reducing the carbon footprint of the cloud. We think so much in short term gains, and I haven’t had the years of experience to know exactly how things will transition, grow, and scale with my infrastructure in the cloud. Businesses that go green are being awarded for their efforts. By running less servers in house, not having all that unused CPU power going to waste on down time, helps make the planet a little more efficient.

The last article I read was on NVIDIA a popular graphics company for the computing industry was redefining GPU technology. [5] I found this article to be fascinating because I do like to play PC games and own a powerful dedicated graphics card. GPUs for rendering extreme graphics often take a huge toll on battery life. If they could harness cloud technology to offload the processing to a new architecture which uses large scale data centers for processing, mobile gaming could take off. Devices would be smaller, games would become more efficient when streamed, and battery life would increase greatly. Many analysts have predicted the next release of the XBOX and PlayStation will be the last generation of consoles. If this architecture is anything to go on, tablets could one day have the power to stream offloaded graphics from the data center and output them right to your TV.

1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/louiscolumbus/2013/02/26/how-cloud-computing-is-redefining-the-ma-landscape/
2. http://cloudcomputing.sys-con.com/node/2515372
3. http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/redefining-cloud-computing-again-187467
4. http://www.environmentalleader.com/2011/11/21/cloud-computing-redefining-expectations-of-it-sustainability/
5. http://nvidianews.nvidia.com/Releases/NVIDIA-Unveils-Cloud-GPU-Technologies-Redefining-Computing-Industry-for-Third-Time-7e2.aspx

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