A good friend of mine always used to mock me because I worked for Microsoft. Actually most of my friends did because for the last few years, Microsoft hasn't been on the bleeding-edge of "cool." Of course I never took them seriously because they were all non-technical business majors and investment bankers. The only two Microsoft technologies they knew were Outlook and Excel. While they'd throw out comical but semi-hurtful phrases like "Microsoft is a poor man's Google" and "hey guess what? I'm switching to Google Docs," I cried a little *crys of laughter* but defended myself and the company. You see, the Microsoft that young people my age know and hate love hadn't done much during what was supposed to be the most exciting part of our lives, college.
My freshman year, Windows XP was the coolest new thing in the PC world. After that, I don't remember caring much about Microsoft. I do remember other things. I remember peer-2-peer networking, I remember Friendster and how it sucked hard, iPod going big, and finally Facebook. All these things have one thing in common; they are social and connected experiences.
Well, for starters, the "Generation-F" *trademarked Viral Tarpara* has just entered the working world and aren't too happy. They resent the fact that they have to choose between their job and being part of the "I Facebooked Your Mom Last Night" group. They hate it that their employers block almost every form of electronic communication outside of email. They despise the fact that with all their education and know how, they can't share ideas with the world. No IM, no Facebook, no GMail, no blog, no life.
Well companies are starting to get it. Social Networking is not a fad. Given a choice between IM and a job, we'll choose IM every time. What's that? No Facebook? Well FACE YOU! The ironic thing with this whole rant is that the companies that are getting it are the some of the most powerful companies in the world, the banks *PDF*. For institutions that are very risk-averse, they sure are betting the farm on social computing. Also how ironic that the company which was stagnant for five years is now the industry visionary for Enterprise 2.0. Maybe it's because Microsoft always focused on the social evolution of the business, or maybe its because Microsoft hires around a 1000 college hires, with fresh ideas, a year, but one thing is for sure, working here is fun, its almost like working for a start-up with a bunch of old people. The reason Microsoft is fun is because it is social, it always has been, and Gates willing, always will be.
If your company is not investing in social computing or if you believe crap like this then you will have serious problems recruiting the best talent in the world. So clam up Mr. CEO and Madame Chairwoman, give the tools that your workers want, Skype, IM, VOIP, mobile email, and video. At the end of the day, will you really be competitive when you have companies like Google, Yahoo, Goldman Sachs, Citi, Bain & Co, Boston Consulting Group, Wachovia, Merril-Lynch, and Microsoft openly embracing the new world of work? The 1980's called and they want their PBX back. Just because change is disruptive, doesn't mean it has to be painful.
Going back to my friends, when I told them I was moving to the UK for the SharePoint role, their first comment wasn't "why London," or even "congratulations," it was "there's a lot of cool talk around SharePoint in the office, what exactly is it?" --VT