Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dreamforce 2011 Social Enterprise Theme: Can There Be An Arab Spring In Business?

I attended Dreamforce 2011 this last week. It's an amazing, crowded event packed full of more people than you could imagine in event focused on enterprise software. They were saying 45,000 attendees this year.

One of the great things about Dreamforce is the new Salesforce features and hear the messaging that surrounds them. One theme for this year was 'Social', Chatter, and the idea of 'the Social Enterprise'. Forget about how they've been pushing Chatter for three Dreamforce events now (and probably still wrestle with a significant chunk of their customer base questioning the value or how it all fits), this year's keynote drew upon the events of the Arab Spring to remind everyone about the role of social media in the transformation. Here's a description from SF Gate:
Showing images from this year's wave of protests and revolutions throughout the Arab world, some of which were fueled by protesters' interactions on social networks, Benioff said a version of the Arab Spring could soon be coming to the corporate world.

CEOs who aren't listening to customers or employees online risk losing their jobs, he said.

"It's not so long from now we'll start to hear about Corporate Spring and Enterprise Spring," Benioff said. "We've seen Mubarak fall. We've seen Khadafy fall. When will the first CEO fall for the same reason?"
Arab Spring. Revolution. It's powerful imagery and it evokes a strong emotional response. Clearly, I'm not the only one who was struck by it (check out this post, The Tragic Triumph of the MBAs on Techcrunch). But while it makes for an interesting premise and it underscores social media, does simply connecting these two concepts using a like analogy really make sense?

Imagine If The Arab Spring Analogy Made Sense
Imagine if the greatest challenge that enterprise employees faced was a dictatorial CEO who stiffled them, prevented them from participating in business processes, corruptly siphoned off all of the company's resources to himself and his cronies, and generally kept the company from being great. If these repressed employees only had a platform to find one another, to communicate, to plan protests...

Of course, the simple truth is that these are not the great challenges facing most enterprise employees. Even if they were, would a corporate-supplied, enterprise communication tool provide the platform for their communication? Imagine if Twitter was a platform developed by the Egyptian government.

It's true that Social Media can be a transformational thing. Within the enterprise, the ability to expose conversations and flatten communication channels can be change-making. More importantly, it's difficult to grasp the importance of being able to shape your own content through the follow architecture. In terms of Salesforce.com, the easy ability to integrate and build an application that Chatters, then publish that stream is an amazing feature that dramatically expands the doorway to the Internet of Things. But that not the same as Arab Spring.

Sorry Marc, The Social Enterprise is not The Arab Spring Enterprise. But you get points for trying.

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